Category Archives: Gear

Apple is entering the Fitness Tracking market

There have been rumors spinning around the Interwebs for a long time about an Apple smart watch, or iWatch, but it has yet to surface. As Pebble, Samsung, Sony, and now Google all have either products on the market or prototypes soon to be, Apple is strangely mum on the subject.

But just a few days ago, an information leak tipped Apple’s hand a bit. Follow the link to read about the impending Apple HealthBook. While this indicates an iOS application for tracking all kinds of health-related information, you can bet your lucky stars that Apple is going to follow up with a device to feed data into that application. What will that device look like? Nobody knows at this point. There are some stunning ideas out there. There are also some guesses based on patents that Apple has filed.

Concept models for the Apple iWatch

Concept models for the Apple iWatch

So why am I excited about all of this? I’m an old-time IT pro. I’ve been in this business for a long time now (nearly 20 years) and I’ve seen some stuff. Back when personal computers were just learning how to talk to one another, and we were building networks and then hooking them into the Internet for the first time, one of the biggest problems we had was integration. There were so many different manufacturers of hardware and software, that it was often quite difficult to get all of the different parts to talk to one another properly. I remember saying back in 1996 or so, that I didn’t care if Microsoft took over the world, as long as everything worked together properly. And not long after that, Microsoft did indeed take over the PC world. And everything worked together pretty well. The story of the rise of Apple is well documented, and Apple took this idea to the next level. By producing both hardware and software, you are assured of the absolute best user experience.

Now look at the fitness tracking market today. You have apps for your smart phone. You have devices for your ankle, your wrist, or wherever. You have web portals. You have training plans and social networks. And they are all over the place. What’s the biggest issue facing the wearables market today? Integration! It’s really tough to get a holistic view of all of your health data. Some trackers only do steps and distance. Some do heart rate and body temperature. It is very hard to find a single place to put all of your data. Apple has the know-how and the reach to make this right. To make it simple, easy to use, and beautiful.

You can bet I’ll be watching this closely. This is going to be big.


Gear Review: The HydraQuiver by @OrangeMud

Staying hydrated while on a long run is crucial. During races, it is typically easier because of the regular hydration stations, but when you’re out training on your own, how do you keep your much-needed liquids accessible? There are lots of ways, and every runner has their favorite.

Some people like to stash water bottles along the route ahead of time, which I have never tried. Some use a carry bottle in their hands, and there are lots of other types of water carriers you can strap to your waist. Each have their benefits and draw-backs. I decided to try something new, the HydraQuiver by OrangeMud. The HydraQuiver differs because it puts a water bottle up between your shoulder blades within easy reach.

This is the OrangeMud HydraQuiver I purchased. I dig the bright orange, but there are lots of other colors you can choose from.

This is the OrangeMud HydraQuiver I purchased. I dig the bright orange, but there are lots of other colors you can choose from.

Here is an actual pic of my HydraQuiver

Here is an actual pic of my HydraQuiver


Here is the pack with the water bottle out

Here is the pack with the water bottle out

I took mine out for a spin during my long run last week for the first time, and I have to say that I was impressed.

I tried my best to get a decent selfie here where you could see the pack. I need to stretch more I guess.

I tried my best to get a decent selfie here where you could see the pack. I need to stretch more I guess.

What I like:

  • After the first couple of steps, I don’t even notice the pack on my back. It sits in a really convenient spot between my shoulder blades and doesn’t bounce around like waist-level belts tend to
  • The bottle is easy to reach. Just like pulling an arrow out of a quiver I’d imagine, hence the name.
  • I really liked having one, full-sized bottle with me. It was way more liquid than I could put into my multiple waist belt bottles. I sweat a lot, so having lots of replacement fluid with me is a good thing.
  • The pack has extra storage up front for gels and such that are easy to reach and use while moving.
Here is a view of the front of the pack where you can see the gear/gel pouches on the shoulder straps. Very easy to reach.

Here is a view of the front of the pack where you can see the gear/gel pouches on the shoulder straps. Very easy to reach.

  • There is a large storage pouch in the back with a key hook that is secured by a zipper. ID, wallet, cell phone, keys, etc. can all go back there and stay out of my pockets.
Here you can see the rear storage pouch. The key hook/lanyard is visible in there. The pouch really is large, nearly the whole back surface of the pack.

Here you can see the rear storage pouch. The key hook/lanyard is visible in there. The pouch really is large, nearly the whole back surface of the pack.

  • The rear pouch also has a hole for headphones, so if you want to stash your iPod in there and run your headphones through, go for it.
The headphone slot is the black circle on the left, just above the zipper for the storage pouch.

The headphone slot is the black circle on the left, just above the zipper for the storage pouch.

  • It adds a little more contrast to my outfit. The logo on the back is reflective, and with the bright orange color I chose, I continue to keep the neon revolution alive.

What I didn’t like:

  • Even though I sealed the bottle as tightly as I could, it still leaked some while I was running. It was so cold during my run that I had a little icicle on the back of my pack.
  • While it is comfortable to wear, it acts a bit like another layer of clothing. I found it interfered with the back vents in my running jacket a bit, and I found myself getting hot faster than I normally do. I’ll have to see if this is a problem once the weather gets warmer and I can run wearing less.

The Verdict:

With the price at $84.95, it isn’t exactly cheap, but is definitely competitively priced for a running hydration pack. It is different enough from everything else on the market currently that it is worth the try. With the horrible winter weather here, I haven’t been outside much to give it another try, so I’m looking forward to see how it will hold up under the stress of continued use. But overall, it is a really nice pack, well made (in the U.S.A.). OrangeMud processed my order quickly and shipped my pack the same day. This one is a keeper.


Tech Review: @Jaybirdsport Bluebuds Review

I’ve been eyeing up a set of Bluetooth headphones for a while. My wired headphones are light and comfortable, but the darned cable is consistently a pain while I’m running. It gets caught on my FuelBelt, or I snag it with my hands as they are swinging. I was looking at several different sets, but kept coming back to Jaybird and their Bluebuds X. Honestly, the only think that kept me hesitating was the price tag. Retailing at $169.95, it seemed a steep bet if I ended up not liking them. Plus add the fact that I have a headphone problem. I seriously have about 15 pairs of earphones. I have different sets I’ve bought, the sets that have come with devices… it is a tad silly.

That changed for me in November 2013, when I flew out to Las Vegas to run the Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon. While at the Pre-race Expo, I stopped by the Jaybird booth, and was able to try them out. I was really pleased at how they sounded and how they felt. I got to the Expo late in the day, and by then Jaybird was all sold out of their Bluebuds (which were nicely discounted), but to make up for it, they gave me a coupon code for the same discount so I could buy online. Hesitation over.

Product Overview:

I ordered my Bluebuds almost first thing when I arrived home from Vegas. I didn’t want to miss out on the discount. They were shipped pretty quickly, and I soon had them in my grubby hands. The first thing I had to do was open up the accessory pack and find the insert and ear “wing” that fit me best.

Accessory Pack


Inside the Accessory Pack

Inside the Accessory Pack

I had to pick the biggest ones, because, let’s face it, I have big ears. 🙂 Once assembled, here is what they look like:

Bluebuds out of the box


And here is how they look in my big ear



That little wide box on the line you see there is the controller. Here is a closeup of it.



The controller has three buttons on it. The top and bottom (or left and right as I have it pictured) are for skipping music tracks. The center button is for powering on and off, for answering a phone call, or activating Siri if you have an iPhone.

The headphones charge via USB. The right earbud has a little cap on the back you pop off and insert the USB plug.



You can sort of see the red LED hidden in there, showing that the unit is charging. The LED light turns green when your Bluebuds have a full charge.

And lastly, they come with a nice hard clam-shell carrying case.

Carrying Case


I like the case quite a bit. It is easy to find in my running gear bag, and keeps my headphones safe from getting tangled up with all of the other junk I carry in there.

Okay, so that is what they are. Here is the lowdown on how I feel about them.

What I like:

  • They were really easy to pair with my iPhone. I turn them on, they connect instantly.
  • The sound is really good. I didn’t realize how little I could hear with my old pair. These sound amazing.
  • I can take a phone call with them. If I forget to turn on Do not Disturb mode while I’m running, I can talk easily with these. The sound quality is really good.
  • They are super-sweat-proof and guaranteed for life. If your Bluebuds bust because you got too sweaty, they’ll replace them.
  • They have “Jenna” inside of them. Yes, the headphones have their own voice, and she talks to me. Pretty cool.
  • The battery lasts a nice, long time. The site touts 8 hours. I haven’t tried them that long yet, but my Bluebuds have hung in for 13.1 with me so far.
  • There is NO CORD to plug into my iPhone while I run. I feel so free not having that tether in the way all of the time.

What I don’t like:

  • The “Signal Plus” feature touts that the headphones won’t lose signal with your device based on location. As long as your device is on your body, you’ll get a good signal. I haven’t found this to be true. I often get a choppy signal when I turn my head to look for traffic, or if I found my phone has slid around in my arm band and is closer to my body. Granted I have been running in very cold temperatures lately, so I’m open to give this some more time.
  • Again with the cold temps, these are sort of hard to put under your hat or headband. For me, my hats or headbands tend to push these into my ears a little too much, and after an hour or so of running my ears get sore from them.
  • When I don’t have my hat or sweatband pushing these into my ears, they tend to slip out once I get really sweaty. I have been wearing them under-ear and am going to try them over-ear and see if that makes it better.
  • They sound REALLY good. Part of that means, when I’m outside running, these really block a lot of the outside sounds I need to hear, like cars coming up behind me, or other runners telling me they’re going to pass. I find I have to keep the volume really low on these so it isn’t dangerous for me to run around outside.
  • They are still expensive. I got them at a discount (20% off from the race Expo), but these are not cheap headphones.

The Verdict

Despite their drawbacks, I really like these headphones. I’m willing to keep working with them to make them work perfectly for me. They sound great, they are guaranteed for life against sweat (and I certainly sweat a LOT while I’m running), and there is NO CORD holding me back. Did I mention that there was NO CORD? 🙂

You could do a lot worse than Jaybird Bluebuds X if you’re looking for a great pair of sports headphones.

Do you run with headphones? If so, which are your favorite? And why?

Gear Review: Nathan Transwarmer Convertible Mitt

The Problem

I live on the East Coast of the US, and it is Winter. If you live in this area, you know that this year has been exceptionally cold. I’ve been having a hard time this year with gloves and keeping my hands the right temperature during runs. I have thin gloves that breathe, but my hands can’t seem to stay warm enough in those, even after running a few miles and the rest of me is nice and warm. I have thick gloves, but those don’t breathe, and my hands sweat in them and get too hot, then I end up taking them off and my hands freeze even more.

The Solution

Last week I saw what I thought might be a solution for me. I’ve been reading that mittens are best when running in temperatures below freezing, because they let your fingers stay together and huddle for warmth. I found the Nathan Transwarmer Convertible Mitt on sale, and thought, for $12, why not give it a try.

Nathan Transwarmer Convertible Mitt

The gloves look great. Best of both worlds, I thought. Gloves when you wan them (with touch-screen fingers) and mittens when you need them. My box arrived with my mittens yesterday, and I gave them a try this morning.

The Verdict

It was 20 degrees Farenheit (about -7 Celsius) when I went out to start my 12-mile run this morning. I started up RunKeeper and slipped on the Nathan Transwarmers in Mitten Mode right off the bat. Brrr it was cold! My thumbs started getting cold right away, so I tucked them into my fist to keep them warm. All was well until about 2 miles in.

Just after my 2nd mile, I noticed that my hands were getting sweaty. And while the glove part of the Nathan mittens is “moisture wicking” the mitten shell is not. So my fingers were getting progressively wetter under the mitten shell, and getting progressively colder. I decided to take the mitten shell off for a while an see if the gloves would dry. The air is very dry and I hoped that the moisture would wick off and I’d be okay. I was wrong. The moisture on my gloves instantly started to freeze. My hands were not warm enough to stave off the freezing with temperatures so low. So I popped the mitten shell back on my partly wet, partly icy fingers and kept trudging on. I started putting my hands, gloves and all, into my pants pockets to try and glean some of the ample warmth coming off of my quads. That helped, but my gloves still wouldn’t dry.

This was bad. I had a lot more running to do, but there was no way I could keep going with wet gloves on such a cold day. My fingers were starting to get numb. Thankfully I was running near home today. I changed course and made a loop back to my house, and reached it about halfway through my run (6 miles, 1 hour). I popped in and changed out my gloves for my really warm, thick gloves. I don’t even know what brand these are. I bought them from a small, local vendor at a race expo last year. They are the ones that usually make my hands too hot, but this time they were perfect. My hands were so cold, my fingernails were blue, so when I got them into my warm, thick gloves, they were finally happy.

I’m happy to report that I was able to finish the rest of my run with very comfortable hands.

As for the Nathan Transwarmer Mittens, from me, they get a FAIL. I’ll be getting a refund on those for sure.