MOTOACTV GPS and MP3 Player
A couple of months ago I was asked by Motorola if I would like to have one of their new MOTOACTV GPS/music player things. Free sounded pretty good and I was really curious about the device since I have a Polar GPS thing that has really not worked well for me on the trails.
The only real condition of me getting this thing free from Motorola was that I say "I got it free from Motorola." And that I don't make absurd claims about it ("I wore it to work the other day and was given a $10,000 bonus because I looked so sharp!").
There are a variety of accessories, but mine came with the wrist band and these headphones. The thing really doesn't look bad and wears well. I'm not a fan of that type of over-the-ear headphone (they would be great if you were doing something that might jostle less-secure buds out of your ear though), so I've been using my iPod buds (I'm one of about two dozen people that really like the basic buds that come with an iPod).
I'm not much of a gadget freak. All I want to do is learn the basics and get it to do what I think it does. And it was easy to do that. The touchscreen is easy to use and works well, and the process of entering basic info was pretty easy (WAY easier than setting up that Polar thing).
The music bit had me concerned, but that was easy too - I plugged it into my MacBook's USB port and after a bit it came up with a list of music from my iTunes. I picked a few playlists and it copied the DRM-free songs to itself. Happily, in spite of it claiming to be an MP3 player, it also is OK with playing AAC files of songs I've bought through iTunes, at least those recent ones that are not protected.
|The site isn't bad, and I suspect you can do a lot of customization if you are into that sort of thing.|
Using the touchscreen while running or walking can be challenging, but fortunately most of the things you might want to do use buttons along the side. So it's relatively easy to use - changing songs, pausing the music, pausing the workout, checking your current status is all not much of a problem.
Having the headphones connected to your wrist is a bit odd, but I got used to it after a bit. And it is supposed to be water resistant (it survived Brazen Lagoon Valley).
Battery life has been fine for how I use it (generally, checking the mileage every 15 minutes or so).
After having it on for 4:39:06 (Quicksilver 25K) the battery was only down 60%. That was without audio playing though - a test I did with listening to music using wired headphones did use up more battery, and likely would have left it at 40% in this case. (I think it will use Bluetooth headsets, but that will drain the battery faster I believe.)
It seems to connect to GPS fairly fast (faster than that Polar) and even better, holds the connection while going through wooded trails. The distance is usually pretty close for exposed courses, and a bit short for heavily wooded terrain (but about the same as I was getting when comparing with other runners).
|The MOTOACTV lady at Brazen Wildcat. She loved seeing someone using the thing, but knew about the elevation issue and is likely tired of hearing about it.|
By far the biggest issue is that, for whatever reason, the device will not tell you your total elevation gain/loss - it tells you your lowest and highest points and the difference between your start and end. In trail running, that's pretty useless. I can't imagine why it's like this - there are some flames on their discussion boards about this ("They added calorie counts for kayaking but still haven't added this basic feature.")
|The basic stats that are on the site, plus the Download button.|
|From gpsvisualizer.com after a bit of customization.|
And that's really the only bit that seems bad. The thing does have some nifty features that allow it to work well with your Motorola Android phone, but for some reason (HA!), not with an iPhone - I likely wouldn't use those features anyway, so that's no big deal for me.
If I had bought this, would I have kept it? Probably. I've got to believe the elevation thing will come in a software update, but until it does, that alone makes it hard to recommend this. Having said that, if it's a lot cheaper than the alternatives (and it is nice having GPS and music in the same device), maybe the elevation thing isn't such a big deal.
I've found that I really like being able to see my mileage while on the trails, and for that it does well.
Hoka Shoes (aka Clown Shoes)
No way was I going to try these things. They were WAY too expensive ($170 or so) and they didn't have my size (14). But then a couple of things happened:
I spotted Mr Brazen wearing a pair and he had nice things to say about them. As did almost everyone else I knew that had them. A guy in his mid 60s that blew past me at a 25K race said they had changed his life and eliminated most knee pain he used to get.
|These shoes stand out a bit.|
|I'm pretty sure it's too late to take them back in "as new" condition.|
We've since worn them in a number of races and we are both happy with them. They make me about 3/4 inch taller than my normal Cascadias (which in turn make me 3/4 inch taller than being barefoot) - that took a bit to get used to. But the way they smooth the trails has been a blessing for my feet - it's like running on a shag carpet with a thick foam pad, no matter how rocky the trail. The downside is that you lose a feel for the trail - for me that isn't a big deal since I'm slow and constantly looking where I'm going anyway.
I read Born to Run shortly after buying these, and it made me wonder if I had done the right thing. These are WAY the opposite of minimalist shoes - everything the book tells you not to have in a shoe. But they have been great so far. My feet and knees seem perkier after races than with my previous shoes.
Were they worth the $170? I think so. Assuming they hold up for a while. But I also know others who have tried them and hated them, so they are not for everyone, making them a bit of a risk.
That's it - move along...