Asics GEL-Nimbus 17 Review

July 1st marked my first 6 month mark to switch out my running shoes. Starting 2016, I’ve decided to switch out my running shoes every 6 months. To follow the expert advice, I decided to get two pairs and rotate them on my each run. As I increase my weekly mileage to 30 miles in my forty-something, I thought my body will need every possible edge to minimize the possibility of injury. Well, it’s been working okay so far. *Fingers crossed*

So I went ahead and got myself two pairs of shoes. One of them was Asics GEL-Nimbus 17. I found this impossible-to-resist deal on Amazon early June, and had to get a pair. I got mine for $77.24 including tax and delivery. Asics GEL-Nimbus 17 usually sells for $110 plus tax. It was a great deal. And I could not pass the opportunity.

When I first unboxed the shoes, I was surprised how bright green it was. I saw the color a few times on websites, but the actual color was much brighter green than the color shown on my laptop LCD. If you are picky about the color, I suggest that you check out the color at a local shoe store before ordering it on the web. This is actually second time that I got a color surprise from ordering a product online, and I now think about the possible color difference when buying something on the web.

Although it was a surprise, after holding it and examining the shoes for a few moments, I must admit the beaming green color grew on me. They are flashy, yet very well constructed and had much attention to details that it didn’t feel like the catchy color was over the top. Just by looking at the overall construction, I could feel that they were premium running shoes.

Stitching was right on the mark, multiple cushions in the sole were perfectly aligned and symmetric, and all the markings were perfect down to the detail, they all made the shoes that much more attractive and well-balanced to look at.

Come to think of it, I think I am appreciating all these details much more because I have bought a much cheaper pair as my second pair of shoes. More on my second pair in my later post.

When I put them on for my first run early July, it felt just right. The shoes perfectly hugged my feet. They felt really light at the same time. Not only the weight, but they had incredible cushion right out of the box. It literally felt like stepping in the cloud, and I could feel the bounce under my feet.

Running the first mile in the brand-new Nimbus 17 was euphoric. I could feel each step settling in to the cushion, and loading up the next step nicely.

But as the mileage increased, my feet started to feel more bumps and slides. It felt like the insoles were too soft to resist all the pounding, and giving in too much to my feet. At the same time, the soft upper mesh were getting stretched to provide more room to my feet to move around. As a result, my soles felt like they were getting blistery. Into Mile 6, it got to a point where I had to start walking to give my soles a break from super mellow insole.

Come to think of it, I think I had a similar issue with earlier Nimbus pairs. I remember having to switch out the insole to get better support to my feet, and having to give extra tight lacing to compensate for soft upper mesh.

Since my first run, I logged about 34 miles on the Nimbus 17. Its soft and bouncy feeling has died down a bit. Yet it still has the great cushion that feels a bit too soft by the end of my 6-mile run.

Will keep you posted whether I still have the blistery sole issue as put on more miles.

-Jae

Polar V800: Long-term Review

I own a Polar V800 GPS watch. It’s a long story how I ended up choosing Polar V800 out of many GPS watches. If you are in the market for a new GPS watch, it may be an interesting read for you. Here’s the post.

Since the late August of 2015, when I bought a Polar V800, I have been wearing it on almost every run that I went. I just looked up the stats, and I ran 201 times with the watch on my wrist, totaling 1,080 miles. I’ve been using the watch on regular basis, and I thought it may be worthwhile to share what I think about the watch. So here’s my long-term review of Polar V800 watch.

Likes: 1) GPS accuracy, 2) battery life, 3) rugged construction

Dislikes: 1) Flaky charging connector, 2) missing battery life percentage, 3) ho-hum online software, Polar Flow

Let me get in to details.

Like #1: GPS accuracy

I am very happy with GPS accuracy of Polar V800. The primary reason why I decided on Polar V800 was the GPS accuracy, and I still feel that I made the right choice with Polar V800. I frequently hear of other GPS watches with much more bells and whistles, but still yet to find one that tracks the GPS location as accurate as Polar V800.

It tracks the location so accurately that I can retrace whether I was running left or right side of pavement. It’s so accurate that I can pinpoint exact locations where I had to veer right to get off the pavement to avoid pedestrians. It simply works to track each step of the run. Amazing.

Using the watch over 200 times, I do see a room for improvements though. Sometimes it does not lock in the initial position correctly, and shows a location 30 – 40 ft away from the actual location. Whenever I saw this problem occasionally, it did correct the location after running 100 ft or so. I think it’s because of initial GPS location locking software bug, something that firmware update can fix.

Like #2: Battery life

I have been logging about 4 – 5 hours each week on my Polar V800, and never had to recharge the device more than once a week. It seems to be single charge is enough to last at least 6 hours even after using it over 200 times. That’s a definite plus given how frequently I have to charge my iPhone.

In fact one-week-long battery life is a life saver because of charging problem that I started experiencing with my Polar V800. I’ll get in to that in a minute.

Like #3: Rugged construction

Polar V800 has a solid build quality to it, and it lasts well into its first year. I wore the watch practically every other day running over 200 times, and it still feels as solid as the day that I bought it. With big hour and minute display, it is simple to read, and I like its simplicity and minimalistic design.

As for shock resistance, I dropped the watch once in my shower. Thankfully I had a quick reflex to soften the landing on the tiles by deflecting the watch with my right foot. After the drop, it didn’t show any visible crack.

I do see one dent in the back of the watch, and I think it came from getting thrown around in my gym bag a few times. It’s very minor though.

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Dislike #1: Flaky charging connector

The biggest gripe that I have with Polar V800 is its flaky charging connector. It just does not work after several months. It slowly lost its connection over time with my watch, and nowadays my computer does not recognize the watch is connected even when it’s securely clamped by the charging connector.

I can tell it’s not just me having charging problem from surveying the online forums. It seems Polar is also aware of the problem because it went through a trouble of creating a dedicated online help page about how to troubleshoot charging issues.

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This is a potential deal breaker because if charging connector does not work, Polar V800 cannot be charged, and once the battery runs out, it’s as good as a paper weight. What an Achilles’ Heel to otherwise a great GPS watch!

So as any resourceful user would do, I have been improvising my own ad-hoc solutions to get around this problem. What seems to work for me at the moment is to use an oversized binder clip to reinforce the connector clip as shown in the photo. It works for me today, but I don’t know how long it will continue to work because I had to continue to increase the pressure. (It used to work with extra rubber band wrapped around, but it’s no longer works today.)

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I just hope that Polar folks are fixing this problem in their next release.

Dislike #2: Missing battery life percentage

Since the connector is giving out on me, I pay attention to how often I have to charge. For some reason, the Polar V800 software designers decided to show the battery life as an icon. Only when it’s 100% full charged or falls below 10%, then it shows the remaining percentage.

As someone who wants to see the remaining battery life percentage on all of electronic devices, this bothers me like a shirt with jagged label sticking out on back of the neck. Why would they decided to hide the numeric percentage? I cannot figure it out.

Thankfully this is a simple change with firmware update. Hopefully the design folks at Polar are listening and will make the firmware update available.

Dislike #3: Unimpressive Polar Flow

One of the reasons to track the data is to keep the data. Once data is kept in one place, there are many interesting questions that one can ask. How have I been improving over time? How am I doing compared to other athletes at similar level? How do pros train, and what can I do differently to maximize the benefit?

These are all possible to answer with data. And that is the promise of cloud stored data. Because each time Polar V800 syncs its data with its server, the Polar server is receiving not just my data, but many other athletes data.

But I see little that Polar is doing to tackle these questions with their Polar Flow software. It’s not clear to me whether Polar Flow is meant as an online data storage, or online fitness coaching tool, or online athletic community. My impression is that it’s trying to be little bit of each for everyone. I see each category as a big field on its own, and wish that Polar focuses on one area and do it well. I personally hope that it is fitness coaching because Polar is a well known brand among serious tri-athletes community.

There you have it. Overall I like my Polar V800. It’s a simple-to-use, very accurate GPS watch. While it has some charging flaws, I think you can still hack the connector (say hello to binder clips) to make them work for you.

Hope it is helpful.

Happy training!

-Jae

11 Weeks of Easy Runs

It’s been 11 weeks since I started training at low intensity. By “low intensity”, I mean running at about 140 heart beat per minute. As I was saying earlier in my blog, I was quite skeptical as to its efficacy. Back when my marathon training partner told me to run at slower pace to build the speed, I thought it did not apply to me because I’ve been running on treadmill for number of years. I somehow thought that running easy meant I was not challenging myself enough. Since I could run faster anyway, I didn’t think I needed slow easy runs.

Only after reading and watching many expert trainers going over their expert training tips, I realized that I may have gotten it all wrong. (If you are interested in reading about why slow easy run is what trainers recommend, you can watch these YouTube videos:

Since April 18th, I’ve dusted off my heart rate monitor, and started doing much more slow easy runs. It’s been about 11 weeks to date. What I thought I would do is to look back, and see how effective the easy running has been to my running performance.

First, it is a lot easier to put in 30 mile every week with easy runs. When I do my easy runs, I don’t get too tired to run the next day. A little stiffness and soreness in my plantar fascia are about all that bug me the next day. Other than that I don’t feel as challenged to put in about 5 miles for 6 days.

Second, I can see my pace improving gradually at lower heart rate.

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The above chart shows my past 11 week training records. The red line is showing my average heart rate during the week’s run, and the blue line is showing my average pace in minute per mile. As you can see, my pace has been steadily rising over the weeks, yet my average heart rate is treading down. That means that the easy running is building my stamina to run faster while lowering my average heart rate.

I feel this improvement while running as well. When I am out for an easy 6 mile run, I always have enough energy in reserve to run the second half of the run faster than the first half (negative split). It was difficult to do earlier when I was running without monitoring my heart rate, and just focusing on my pace. I still remember those runs where I had to walk in the end because I simply didn’t have any more in me to run the last home stretch.

After 11 weeks of easy running, I went from 9:30 minute per mile pace easy runs (at about 140 bpm) to 8:45 minute per mile pace easy runs.

I wonder how much I can improve my pace and endurance. Let me keep at it, and see how far I can go.

-Jae