‘Rough’ Work Day, Running Lately and 5 Ways to Make Your iPad Your Main PC!

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I have mentioned before that I work in the ‘corporate engineering’ organization, but most people I talk to don’t know what that really means (nor did I really ‘get it’ until I started working at Corning. In my last job there were two divisions – one for microelectronics and the other for printed circuit boards, each with their own research, development, engineering and manufacturing people. Within a division we would work on a variety of technologies and products, and often remain linked to them … well, forever. You would report to your boss but the project lead would have your time. By the time I left I had estimated that 40% of my time was allocated to ‘baggage’ responsibilities from the previous 15 years.

For Corning, without being too specific, each business has employees to do development and engineering and manufacturing, and there is a corporate engineering division that supplies ‘center of excellence’ support to every other division. This allows divisions to streamline operations and the corporate engineering groups to focus on their core skills. Operationally, it means that you almost never see your boss or the people in your department. So I have an office in downtown Corning, but have been there less than a half-dozen times this year.

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‘Rough Day’ at Work

With all of that as introduction, you might understand why it matters for our department to have periodic ‘team events’. We have a monthly staff meeting and quarterly division meetings, but again those are functional and don’t help us connect as people, which greatly enhances our ability to work together effectively. So before I even joined Corning, the group started a routine of having a couple of smaller events and one larger all-day event each year.

For example, last year we had a cooking class day at the New York Wine and Culinary Center, have done wine tours, bowling, boat trips, and more.

This year for our ‘rough day’, we spent the day on a two-masted schooner and then eating at a nice lake-side restaurant.

We did a Seneca lake cruise on the ‘True Love’, which was the boat used in the film High Society when Bing Crosby serenades Grace Kelly on the boat. Because of the weather change from warm & humid to cool & dry, the lake was quite windy … making for excellent sailing! Because the boat is relatively small (capacity of 20 people, we had 14), when we were sailing with the wind the boat tipped so the rail was less than a foot off of the water! The weather was great, and the wind and waves made for a fun and active ride – it was possible to walk around and talk, but choppy enough that you wanted to sit when possible and there were a few drinks spilled. All in all a great adventure, and highly recommended if you are in the area!

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We had a late lunch at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant, which is a place we’ve been to a couple of times before. Our experience was mixed but generally, and that pretty well reflects the experience this time. Coming in on a Thursday afternoon after 2PM the place wasn’t too busy, so we were able to not be cramped at all.

There were a variety of appetizers, then main dishes. They also provided ‘fresh’ bread that was drenched a sort of butter-oil-garlic … I tried it, but not a fan. I got a Southwest Chicken Salad that had fresh salsa (black bean, red onion, tomato, corn and cilantro salsa with tortilla chips and roasted jalapenos) as well as spinach and other greens and grilled chicken. The problem I had (aside from no tortilla chops and the jalapenos not being roasted, neither of which I minded since the jalapenos were fresh and not from a jar) was that the chicken wasn’t ‘fresh’. It reminded me of getting a big bag of pre-grilled chicken breast from Sam’s Club, reheating and cutting it up. In other words, it was fresh cut, but NOT fresh cooked.

As I talked to others at the table that ‘semi-homemade’ feeling was everywhere. My review of Seneca Harbor Station would be ‘Good’ – food was pretty decent, prices for an ‘on the lake’ place were also reasonable. Service was excellent, one benefit of the place having emptied out after lunch.

But the best thing about all of it was how both events allowed everyone to chat and move around easily – I heard about projects, locations, kids and spouses and parents and so on, planned out a possible course to teach next year, and so on. Excellent day in every possible way!

Running

I have only talked a bit about my running since returning from vacation, but a few things occurred to me as I was finishing up my run today and looking at the 9.07 mile distance … here are the bullet points:
– 10 runs since returning
– 92.5 miles total
– 9 out of 10 runs were over 9 miles
– Totally off last weekend, will run Saturday and take Sunday off
– All runs were ‘free-form’, base building … next week gets back to ‘purpose’.

I was concerned returning from vacation and hopping into running, so I ran with the Kinvara 5s for a few days them rotated back into the Virratas … and I have felt great.

Belkin Ultimate1

Five Steps to Make Your iPad Your Main Computer

I talk regularly about using my iPad as my ‘90% Computer’. I also get asked a lot about how to make the iPad useful beyond just ‘a toy’, so I thought I would quickly note a few ways to turn that tablet into your main computing device!

Realize what you CAN Do!

When the iPad first arrived, people dismissed it as an over-sized iPod Touch, and then as a simple ‘consumption’ machine. In other words, some of the obvious capabilities: email, web browsing, listening to music and watching videos. Guess what – the iPad is EXCELLENT at those things.

But very quickly the iPad killed the booming Netbook category and shook up the PC market completely … so it had to be more than just a basic consumption device.

Just by using what is built-in to the iPad and readily available for free from Apple, you get:
– Very capable email client for all common services
– Multi-tab web browsing with most modern features available.
– Calendar / Contacts / To Do
– Maps with GPS and directions
– Messaging and video chat clients
– Camera with integrated browser, separate powerful image editor and movie editor
– Video and music integration with cloud-based playback
– Music making and recording

That is quite a bit – and the hardware is powerful and incredible capable.

Make Use of iCloud, Google+ and Onedrive

One of the great things for me is the ability to quickly shift between iPhone, iPad and Mac in terms of images, music and data files.

For example, I can take a picture on my iPhone, then upload it to a post in WordPress on the iPad without ever downloading it to my device by using the Photo Stream. Using Google+ allows you to add all of the pictures you take to your Google image storage for use with a Chromebook or Android device, and Microsoft’s OneDrive has similar capabilities.

As another simple example, after our New York trip we wanted to look at pictures. We imported ones from our cameras to iPhoto, but the ones from our phones all auto-uploaded so we could just grab the iPad and browse through them all.

Apps, Apps, Apps!

My uses for the iPad?
– Productivity (including all of the stuff from above)
– Data analysis
– RSS browser
– Blogging
– Gaming
– Music making

Doing many of these things requires apps. I love jamming with Magellan Synth, recording up to 48 tracks in Auria, checking RSS feeds in Mr. Brower (uses Feedly), blogging with the WordPress app, and so on.

Whereas most of the best phone games are ‘time wasters’, on the iPad you can play a full game like Baldur’s Gate 2, or X-Com and so on. The screen size gives you the visual space as well as touch-screen space to have a great experience.

The same is true for music – you can use multi-touch to play ‘piano’, manipulate ‘knobs’ and ‘dials’ in real-time, and because of the processing power, an app like AudioBus allows you to string together multiple apps to turn your iPad into a real recording studio!

Accessorize for Success

If you look at the image above, you see I have my iPad in a keyboard case. Specifically I have the Belkin Qode Ultimate, which protects my iPad Air, doesn’t add much bulk, and provides a great Bluetooth keyboard with excellent battery life.

I also regularly use products from IK Multimedia such as the iRig Pro to hook in my guitar, and the iRig Keys Pro as a great portable keyboard.

Temper Your Expectations

Remember … this is NOT a laptop. I think this has fueled some disillusionment and a tapering of sales from all vendors. You WILL need a computer for some things, and to act as a ‘hub’, but you will also find you can use it much less.

That is how my iPad became my 90% computer. When I first got it, I had my work computer for work, but also a smartphone (Droid), netbook and LiveScribe ‘smartpen’. With the iPad the netbook and LiveScribe quickly went away – and so did my use of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP! And many things I was doing on the Droid I could do more efficiently on the iPad.

When I was in Kentucky last year, I knew I needed my work computer (duh), but I needed some way to do my personal stuff and blogging … and didn’t want to lug two laptops. So I had to do a ‘trust fall’ and hope the iPad would work – and it DID. I was recording and editing and posting video reviews, writing, playing games, making music, emailing, Facetime-ing and so on! So for me, it has earned its place.

And finally – while it seems illogical – maybe you don’t NEED a tablet? As screens get bigger more people are able to use their smartphones for nearly everything. And I look at things and wonder – if Apple DOES release the rumored 5.5″ screen (or even the nearly-certain 4.7″), will the combination of that and my Macbook Air be enough? We shall see …

Have you sailed on a lake? What is your go-to computer / blogging device?

Randomly Random Stuff of Randomness

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It seems lately I have had a steady stream of rather serious and heavy posts, but at the same time I have been amassing drafts and filling up my ‘junk draft’ with stuff – so it is time to purge with a ‘thinking out loud‘ theme! And so … let’s get to it …

Thinking-Out-Loud

1. You Really Never Know!
In a comment last week Megan said “I just have no idea how you put out so MUCH content without putting junk out there” – and here is the thing … neither do I.

This was originally where I had what became the Continuous Trust Fall post. It is still interesting to me what gains traction, and also how I can have an idea that seems like a throwaway and then suddenly there is a post! Like today … what started as a random collection of recent stuff gained at least somewhat of a theme as I went along … hope you enjoy! 🙂

2. Dreams Followed

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Here is a random one based on the ‘passion over paycheck’ post – last week in our area one of the engineers in our group found a new bakery that had opened. Turns out that it was someone a couple of people had worked with, and he had always expressed interest in opening a wood-fired bread bakery when he retired.

He calls the place “Ash Hole Makers of Dough” – yeah, the name … but the bread? Awesome! Oh – and if you are ever doing the Wineglass Marathon or coming through Corning, check it out!

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3. Diner Micro-review: Maple Lawn Dairy Restaurant

OK, I love how Hollie does her diner reviews, they are fun and seem like they would be functionally useful for folks in the area. Plus it is never bad to look at pictures of the monster cakes and sundaes she gets!

On our way to New York City for vacation, we asked around about a place to go and were told about the Maple Lawn Dairy Restaurant, and since it was along the way … we stopped.

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Atmosphere: it really IS both a dairy and a restaurant! You walk through the ice cream place as you go to get seated … and in that moment you want to stop and say “I think I’ll have a sundae for breakfast!” The place looks more like a family-style casual eatery than a diner, with plenty of windows and natural light – so we could also see it was really clean.
Coffee: diner coffee, but good! We only had a couple of cups each – because we still had more than a four hour drive! But it was good enough that we would have had more.
Food: Between us we had two specialty omelettes, one Belgian waffle, and I got the jumbo breakfast wrap. The portions were huge – none of us left remotely hungry, and there was food left behind on most of the plates.
Price: Four people, huge breakfasts, and a total including tip of $50.
Overall Thoughts / Would I Come Back: One great thing – our waitress brought us a French toast sample plate while we decided, and the staff in general were incredibly friendly and helpful. They have a rewards program that immediately gives you a discount coupon – and my older son and his girlfriend already returned for another awesome breakfast.

This is one of the best breakfast places in the area, a bit off the highway and about 30 minutes east of Corning. Again, if you are coming for Wineglass or just driving through the area – worth a stop!

4. Amazon Kindle Unlimited and Prime Music

Do you love to read? If so check out Kindle Unlimited – it is $9.99 per month, on top of Amazon Prime if you have it. The selection is somewhat limited now, but does include audiobook versions of more than 1200 books. It includes things like ‘Life of Pi’ as well as the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games series. The estimate I would make is that if you read more than a couple of books a month it pays for itself.

If you DO have Amazon Prime … you should really check out Prime Music. They JUST added hundreds of thousands more songs (it launched with over a million), and also hundreds of cool pre-fab playlists. The really cool thing is that you can add the music included with Prime directly to your music library, and can then download to your devices to play on the go without any internet access.

5. Running For a Reason

I have talked about Laura’s run across America before, and this week she wrote in frustration about the challenges in finding sponsorship for her cause, which is sexual violence. It is sad that what seems like such an easy cause to support should be proving difficult:

As women, we view the world differently because of what we’ve been told to be afraid of. We may even trust differently, and have learned to be suspicious first. We’ve also been told that rape could be our fault if we behave in certain ways, and I know that is a thought that has passed through my mind as I make decisions (although I contradict it, it’s still there). Please note: it is never our fault.

As I spoke to a potential corporate sponsor on Friday, she was initially excited about the run. But then she found out what cause I was running for, and I was told, verbatim, that this was “not a cause they would choose to align themselves with.”

Again – I find this really sad. And so I want to again encourage everyone to check out her site, her fundraising page, and even her Amazon Wish List and see what you can possibly do to help.

6. 8 Signs of a Relationship Gone Wrong

Speaking of Laura’s cause, over at UpWorthy this week they provided the following graphic and also the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. It is sad that any of this needed … but it is, very much.

Relationship Gone Wrong

7. My Family Went to New York, and all I got …

Was a new debit card.

True story – last Thursday night Lisa and I were paying a few bills and noticed an odd $0.25 charge from a New York parking garage. All I could think was it was possibly related to our parking garage where we stayed, or maybe the Metro … but none of it seemed right. We made a note to keep an eye on our account.

The next morning Lisa got a call from our bank (Corning Credit Union), who had detected suspicious account activity … and we discovered that the $0.25 was the second ‘test charge’ (the other one was immediately reversed) and that someone had attempted a shopping spree with the card before it got shut down.

That afternoon we were in the branch office going through everything, and they had dealt with all of the charges except for a few that were still pending, and none of it was our responsibility. They shredded my card and issues a new one, and everything was handled incredibly quickly and easily.

I had gotten a new card because I made one trip to Target before their whole system got hacked, and now I just got another one. But what really struck me was the level of fast and friendly customer service we got during the whole process. It made a potentially awful situation much less stressful.

8. Overcoming Negative Thoughts

I loved the post by Harold at Runnah.com where he did his own version of ‘Overcoming Negative Thoughts’ … which was a great post by Christine at Love Life Surf.

Here are her basic thoughts:
1.Write about it.
2.Let it go.
3.Remember what you have accomplished.
4.A good coach helps too.
5.Believe you can fly.

Both posts are great and worth reading, and a great reminder of how negative thoughts can consume us and how important it is to purge them from our lives.

9. Speaking of Runnah.com

When I did my ‘blog process’ write-up, I nominated three wonderful people. But then I was surprised to see that Harold had done his own process post! Why? Because he is generally not a huge fan of these things … but I LOVED that he did it, so wanted to share it here.

Since I am off the running routine for a bit (one of those freak injuries), I have looked for things to blog about and after reading Mike’s blog today about the Blog Writing Tour, I decided to invite myself into the party :-).

I know, I know it probably is not good form, but…hey this seemed like fun and sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and do it.

Check it out, and also Lauren, Michele and Sara!

10. Watching Out for Emotional Manipulation

As all of us know, there are many ways to cause pain that do not leave a mark. Many of us deal with emotional manipulators in our lives – they are easy to spot, because they are the ones who will do something to you (or not do something they promised) and yet YOU end up apologizing. There is a great post on 8 ways to spot emotional manipulation – and freeing yourself from emotionally manipulative relationships can be one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself:

If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! No matter what your situation is the emotional manipulator has probably been there or is there now – but only ten times worse. It’s hard after a period of time to feel emotionally connected to an emotional manipulator because they have a way of de-railing conversations and putting the spotlight back on themselves. If you call them on this behavior they will likely become deeply wounded or very petulant and call you selfish – or claim that it is you who are always in the spotlight. The thing is that even tho you know this is not the case you are left with the impossible task of proving it. Don’t bother – TRUST your gut and walk away!

11. GOMI Good or Bad

Hollie referenced the ‘snarktastic’ site called ‘Get Off My Internets’, or GOMI, in a post this week. The basis of the forum site is based on people creating threads that reference a site in a number of categories. Most of the sites I track and that comment on mine are in either Running Blogs or Healthy Living categories.

In general, no one creates a thread for a positive reason. Sure there are supporters of bloggers who will post, but the preponderance of thoughts are negative – hate reading, criticizing content or style or appearance … and most positive comments are made in the context of a comparison used to criticize someone else.

As for me? I get a single reference in a thread about Sara at Loving On The Run … . Given that (a) I’m older than most of the people I follow by at least 10-15 years (b) I’m a guy and most of the blogs I follow are by women and (c) that I write the comments I do … well, I wasn’t surprised by what was written:

mirulhi said
Plus: Who is this self-righteous weirdo (https://txa1265.wordpress.com/) who comments daily on her crap? Maybe it’s just me, but for some random, old, married dude to be excited to read “a peek into who you are as a person, wife, and runner” seems super creepy. Besides, he posts on his own blog too many late-middle-age man full-length mirror selfies. *shudder*

I KNOWWW!! Everytime that guy comments I get super creeped out. I just know he’s at home, poring over her blog/Twitter/Instagram having dirty thoughts. He loves to dole out relationship advice too.

If you read anything else in that thread you’ll see that I make out better than Sara. Similarly I find many people are pretty harsh on Hollie … and when I was looking there I noted they now have a thread on The Suz … ugh, just not nice. Personally I can’t change the gender and age distribution of our community, and since I thoroughly enjoy our interactions, my approach has always been total transparency with Lisa about, as she calls it, my running cult’ 🙂

To be honest, GOMI is FAR from the worst or harshest forum site I have spent time on, and a lot of it comes across rather pedantic, as well as tired, hackneyed, petulant and immature. Certainly compared to some game forums it is positively sedate!

But it is also worth noting that there is a place for this type of criticism. I have talked about the lack of constructive feedback and the overly-positive nature of things … GOMI helps provide an outlet off-blog for people to talk about things. Of course, I think a firect approach would always be better – if you have an issue with a blogger, drop an email.

12. Oldest Sub-4:20 Miler

Since I am 48 I was drawn to this article about a 48 year old runner becoming the oldest to run a sub-4:20 mile. On the one hand I think I look younger … but on the other I look nothing like him rounding the track! haha Check out the video:

13. Random Randoms

– Danielle has a great new featured column at Women’s Running’s Competitor site about sweating – it is awesome and 100% Classic T-Rex! Check It Out

Shamus has fun poking at the new music service Milk … which is basically radio. Not reinvented, not ‘for the next generation’ … just radio.

– Worst Conflict Resolution Ever – So a guy emails his wife about why he won’t miss her on her 10 day trip, using a tabulation of denied sex requests as a backdrop. So yeah, actually you should head to the original Reddit page … great comments, really sad situation. Nothing is clear except that the level of communications and intimacy in the relationship is dreadfully poor. As many there say, if he has a 7 week detailed spreadsheet with verbatim responses … how long has he been mentally tracking, and how long has it bugged him before … and what was his level of communication about the situation, and how involved was SHE in any of this. To be at this point at 26? Wow … even MORE sad.

– New ’10 Days of You’ posts – you know that Sara got me hooked on this (and is down to her 3 films), and now Laurel has picked it up with her 10 secrets post. My faves? Her talent for learning song lyrics and “I will sometimes sleep in my running outfit so I have one less excuse”. haha!

15 ‘Not to Do’ List Items – one way Megan is changing up is posting more things that would be blogs on Facebook – like this. My only addition would “Don’t allow others to dictate your personal boundaries.”

14. Colby Callait’s “Try” – Great Message

Lisa was singing this song and wanted to share it, so we looked on YouTube and found the video and played it. The video was about honestly representing yourself – no Photoshop or other dishonest alterations.

Here is the video:

Sara shared the video as well based on this powerful message. And linked to a site where Callait shared some thoughts:

When I see gorgeous models and singers and they look perfect on their album covers, it makes me want to look like that, too, and it makes me feel like if I don’t Photoshop my skin on my album cover, I’m the one who’s going to look a little off and everyone else is going to look perfect. And that’s what everyone is used to seeing.

They’re used to seeing people on the album covers completely Photoshopped. On one of my album covers, my arm was shaved down and it made me look very skinny. I think that gives a false reality.

So What Random Thoughts Do You Have Today?

Garmin Forerunner FR-15 GPS and Fitness Watch Review

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Just two days before my first marathon in 2012, Garmin sent me their new ForeRunner FR-10. It’s an entry level watch with the right amount of tracking features for most casual runners and racers. Since then I have reviewed a number of watches, and rounded them up here. When Garmin contacted me I jumped at the opportunity to check out their new entry level GPS watch! The FR-15 is easy to recommend, delivering new and improved functionality in all ways except for one – read on for more details!

Manufacturer’s Description:

Run with all your heart. This easy-to-use GPS running watch tracks distance, pace, heart rate1, calories and Personal Reacords.Pair it with a foot pod2 to capture distance data on treadmill runs. Forerunner 15 helps you stay on top of your fitness goalsbetween workouts with Activity Tracking features that remind you when it’s time to move and count steps and calories burned allday. The rechargeable battery lasts up to eight hours with GPS on or five weeks in watch/Activity Tracking mode. Upload to ourfree online community, Garmin Connect, to join fitness challenges and save, plan and share your progress.

•Tracks distance, pace, heart rate¹ and calories
•Activity tracking counts steps and calories and reminds you when it’s time to move
•Compatible with foot pod² for recording distance indoors
•Up to 8 hours of battery life with GPS on or 5 weeks in watch/activity tracking mode
•Save, plan and share your activities at Garmin Connect™

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The Watch:

If you look at the FR-15, you will note that it looks a lot like the FR-10 … because it does. In fact, aside from now having a stylish blue it is virtually identical! That isn’t a bad thing – the FR-10 came in two sizes that worked well for smaller and larger people. The FR-15 is similarly comfortable and easy to fit on a variety of wrists. I had a bunch of people try it on at work and home (I’m pushy that way!), and everyone agreed it was light and comfortable.

Similarly the display is nearly identical to the FR-10, though I feel that the new display is even crisper. You get at most two items displayed at once – Elapsed Time and Distance, Distance and Pace, Heartrate and Calories, and so on. The text size is large enough to be easily visible at a glance. It is a great compromise – larger watches display more but are often harder to see on the run, and many similar sized watches try to display too much (like the Polar RC3) and end up with a confusing interface.

That is where the FR-15 shines – all of the functionality is easily accessible, and the button controls are well labeled and intuitive. You don’t really NEED to read the manual, but it only takes a minute and then you won’t forget.

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More FR-15 Features:

Some of the features you can access are Auto-Pause, which is great if you regularly run in traffic and need to stop at intersections; Auto-Lap, which I (and seemingly everyone else) has defaulted to 1 mile; an ‘auto-pace’ that helps keep you on track; the data fields displayed on the various pages of the display when active; your weight for calculating calories; and a bunch of other settings. For fitness you can turn the system on or off, and set your goals and ‘Move’ alert.

There are not the seemingly infinite settings found in other devices, but there is a considerable amount of flexibility and control, and for me I have yet to come across anything additional I would want. Here are a few screens:

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Fitness Tracker:

One of the biggest additions to the FR-15 is the fitness tracking capability, similar to Garmin’s recent VivoFit dedicated fitness tracker. This product space is interesting now – with Fitbit having to recall their entire ‘Force’ product, Nike exiting the space, leaving the Garmin ViviFit competing against the Polar Loop, Jawbone Up, and older Fitbit products.

The allure of fitness tracking is obvious to most people – modern jobs and internet-centric society means more sedentary lifestyles than ever before, and more and more research shows that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and that even people who exercise regularly need to maintain active lifestyles throughout the day. So a fitness tracker is a great way to ensure that you are moving throughout the day.

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Using the Garmin FR-15 for tracking fitness is simple – enable tracking, and wear the watch all the time. That’s it – then just look at your watch and it will show your steps and progress against your goal, and tapping the lower-left button will toggle through steps, goal, calories and the current date. The data resets to zero at midnight, but your last 7 days are saved for later sync-up.

Then the next time you hook up to a computer to sync the FR-15 your steps and sleep patterns. You get tracking across days, performance to target and so on, viewable on the web or your Garmin Connect app. The only thing lacking is that you have to manually specify your sleep hours – on the VivoFit you can hold the button and the system goes into sleep tracking mode, and you wake it up by holding the button in the morning. That makes the FR-15 method more approximate, but I still like the way it tracks and charts motion during the night.

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Wireless Sensors:

One of the two criticisms I had for the FR-10 was “no support for ANT+ wireless devices (such as heart rate monitor) or foot pods.”

Well … they listened.

The FR-15 now features ANT+ sensor support, meaning that if you already have an ANT+ HRM (heart rate monitor) or foot pod sensor it will work with the FR-15. Garmin sent along the FR-15 model that comes with the heart rate monitor. I didn’t have a foot sensor to test.

Pairing up the sensor was quick and easy, and I also tried with a couple of other ANT+ HRM sensors and it worked easily every time. The HRM is a standard chest-strap model, so you need to wet your skin and the sensor before it will find your heart rate for precise tracking.

Once paired, the HRM has linked up for me every day without fail. And with the heart rate displayed prominantly on the screen I found it easy to use the system to maintain constant effort based on heart rate. Well, it was easy to see the display … the rest I’m still working on!

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Battery Life:

My other criticism of the FR-10? “Battery life is short.”

Again, Garmin listened.

The FR-10 specified a 5 hour GPS life, and based on my usage the last couple of years that seems about right. That means it is good enough for most people to run a marathon without charging the day before or after … and not much else.

The FR-15 specifies 8 hours of GPS and normal use (since tracking is generally on), so I decided to test it out for a week. I didn’t plug in all week long, which meant tracking for 24 hours per day, using the HRM and GPS for at least an hour per day. At the end of the week I had done over 8 hours of use, was getting low battery warnings but everything still worked. I synced up the watch and everything was stores – activities, heart rate graphs and daily activity tracking. Very impressive for such a small and light watch.

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GPS Location and Strength:

The joke would be that GPS is all about location – in more than one way. Not only is its basic function tracking location, but how well it syncs to GPS to get started can be the difference between fun and frustration. For me the Garmin FR-10 generally would link up within a minute at home, though when in different locations it could take longer. Last year when I was traveling for work it took a few minutes the first couple of times but gradually the lock came faster.

For the FR-15 nothing much seems to have changed. At home the GPS is generally ready to go before I am, and on my trail run this weekend it still took less than a minute. Of course, if you had issues with the FR-10, chances are the FR-15 won’t be much better.

Only one time has the FR-10 GPS failed me – running the trails of the PA Grand Canyon Marathon. So I was interested to see how the FR-15 handled the Catharine Valley Trail on my run … which ended up boring because it never had an issue!

Sync-Up and Apps:

Syncing up the FR-15 is pretty much identical to the FR-10: you get a cradle that the watch snaps into with four contacts on the back. You plug into a USB port on Mac or PC, launch Garmin Express (which should auto-launch), and the data anto-syncs to the Garmin Express site where you can view it.

You can also view activities on the Garmin Connect app for iOS or Android, though honestly it is of less value for the FR-15 than for my wife’s VivoFit. That is because the VivoFit direct syncs to the app, and also has features that work together with the app that the FR-15 doesn’t support.

If there is one weakness, THIS is it – so many devices have moved to wireless sync that it is a shame that the FR-15 requires corded sync. Especially because of the fitness tracking – having to plug into a cable on a computer just to see results on your phone reduces the value of fitness tracking.

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Accuracy & Precision – Fitness Tracking:

There are two areas that I looked at – walking and running.

Running is … weird. And it makes sense – your stride length varies if you are doing hills or a long flat run, an easy pace or a more strenuous speed workout. As a result the tracking of steps to distance was fairly useless for me. I found that I could run the same basic route two days – on easy and the other pushing the pace – and get results that skewed by up to 1000 steps, which would be about 0.5 miles at a walking stride. As a result I did what most people seem to do – not use the Garmin FR-15 fitness tracking when running.

But walking is another thing – Lisa and I love to go for walks, so I was able to test the FR-15 against her Runkeeper app on the iPhone, the Garmin VivoFit and Polar Loop fitness tracker. All of these matched very well between miles and steps (using ~2500 steps/mile equivalent), and the agreement between all of them was withing less than a hundred steps across about a dozen miles walked over several days.

Accuracy & Precision – GPS and Heart Rate:

Comparing heart rate monitors is hard because you can really only have one monitor at once. So instead of making direct comparisons I used different sensors on different days on similar runs. And using three different sensors I got more or less the same message – my rate starts low, ramps as I ramp my intensity, then settles into a groove for most of my run. The Garmin HRM was the most comfortable and easist to adjust and wet of the ones I tried, and I have happily made it my go-to HRM.

In terms of run tracking, I got a bit more involved … I used my old FR-10 on one wrist, the FR-15 on the other, and the Wahoo Fitness app on my iPhone in my running belt. I wore all three across a few weeks, and all three tracked extremely well. I will let the graphs speak for themselves – but the agreement was within +/-0.1 mile across the 7 – 15 mile runs.

GPS Tracking

Conclusions:

The Garmin FR-10 provided a great entry level GPS watch which I heartily recommended. The FR-15 improves on the FR-10 in every appreciable way, with better battery life, fitness tracking and suport for ANT+ wireless sensors. The Garmin Express app and site continue to become more useful and helpful with tracking and integration features, and the ability to do sleep monitoring graphs adds another new direction.

With the FR-15 Garmin retains my vote for the best entry-level GPS watch. For $169.99 you get all the features of the $130 FR-10 and most of the features of the $130 VivoFit combined. Add on the heart rate monitor and you have a $200 all-in-one fitness data collection system!

Review: Garmin ForeRunner FR-15

Where to Buy: Garmin.com or Amazon.com

Price: $199.95 ($169.99 without heart-rate monitor)

What I Like: Great design; fantastic accuracy; useful fitness tracking; support for ANT+ sensors; super light-weight; perfect fit; great price; easy readability and controls; great choices in features.

What Needs Improvement: Lack of wireless sync.

Source: Manufacturer provided review sample

Here is my hands-on video of the Garmin ForeRunner FR-15: