The Urbanathlon Race in Chicago, and other weekend items

This past weekend was a blur of activity.  It started off with a Friday afternoon flight over to Chicago for the Urbanathlon.  Once we arrived in the city and got checked into the hotel we noticed we could see the giant Jelly Belly hanging out in a nearby park (ok, officially called ‘Cloud Gate’, unofficially called ‘The Bean’).

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We ended up doing a bit of an easy run out around the lakefront, from near the jelly bean.  I used the Timex Run Trainer to record my workout.  Worked great, super easy to use.  The menu system has been cleaned up from the Timex Global Trainer (one of my previous complaints) – and it flows a lot better.  There’s also just a ton of features in it, especially given the price compared to other options out there.

I’d end up use it the next day as well during the Urbanathlon.

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We finished up packet pickup, which included all sorts of goodness.  Here you can see The Girl, me, and Sarah getting our packets. Sarah’s the other blogger that posts content on the Men’s Health Urbanathlon site with me.

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The next morning we got up early and headed down to the race.  Thankfully, it was neither super-cold, nor super-windy, nor raining, nor anything else that would make life unhappy.  It was pretty much a perfect day out:

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Now, I could just copy and paste my entire race report here…but I won’t.  Not because I’m trying to get you to the other site to read it all, but merely because I’ve got so much other stuff to tell you about from the weekend.  And it’d be silly to copy/paste.  Instead, I’ll simply note that if you’re curious on how the whole whacky Urbanathlon thing works, then you’ll want to read the first half of my race report here.  Essentially, it’s a running race they you have obstacles in.  Except unlike a Muddy Buddy race, this takes place in the city and without (much) mud.  Pure running speed is definitely a critical part of the race…but so is creativity and strength.

And just to offer ya something I haven’t published elsewhere yet, check out the below video of my finish.  It involves first running over the top of two taxi’s, then scaling a few buses, then eventually trying to climb over a massive wall.  Fun times!

Chicago Urbanathlon Taxi Cab Finish

After the race I took a handful of photos around the taxi’s, simply because that’s where the majority of the entertainment was:

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As I noted earlier, I used the Timex Run Trainer during the race (in addition to the FR910XT).  Both watches worked great, and both were pretty close to each other for distance.  Which I found interesting given how tough it would have been for either to track distance during the race.  After all, I was inside a concrete stadium for 12 minutes bumbling around going up and down flights of stairs.  Now both devices came up short from the official published distance – but they were both close to each other…so that’s what counts.

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After the race I spent some time with complimentary Chipotle burritos.  They’re a sponsor of the Urbanathlon.  I wish they would sponsor me, and my turtles.  And I wish they would make breakfast burritos.  Maybe some sort of Chipotle Ice Cream Sundae too.  I’d reckon it’d be just like the burrito bowl, but with chocolate.  And ice cream.  Maybe sprinkles.

Oh, right, anyway…things after the race.

I really had wanted to get in some openwater time with the Garmin FR910XT, since one of the major selling points was that it could not only track distance while on your wrist, but also track stroke rate too.

So I bundled up a slew of watches, and then head out in the water.  The goal was to be able to track distance with a unit in the swim cap (as usual) as well as have both a FR910XT and FR310XT on my wrists.  Additionally, since many folks want to use their running GPS units for tracking swim distance (a very common request) I had the Timex Run Trainer in my cap as well.

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I ended up doing two swim’s.  An out and back down the shoreline following the buoys, and then also a sorta circular variant from buoy to buoy.

What was cool was seeing the distance on the unit, as well as the stroke information.  At the third buoy, it had registered about 500 yards:

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And also note the stroke information mid-swim:

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Now, I’ve still gotta compile all the different GPS data I have, as well as get some firmware and ANT Agent updates from Garmin to make the uploads have a bit more clarity on then – hence why I don’t have full results at this time.  As promised though, a full swim detail is coming shortly, once all the pieces are in place.

My initial thoughts are that the GPS distances are improved, but still not quite as accurate as the swimcap method.  It was interesting however to see that the swim stroke information did show up just like it was traditional cadence data – so TrainingPeaks was able to see it when I uploaded the workout.

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Like I said, more details (hopefully) on everything soon.  Of somewhat sad note though was that it officially marked the end of my beloved wetsuit.  While removing it afterwards (oddly enough in a short demonstration video of how the FR910XT is designed to slide off easily), I managed to catch my thumb in a small tear that had already been in my armpit…and turn it into a second hole big enough for my head.  Had nothing to do with FR910XT, and I would have eventually had to replace it.  It’s served me well since my first triathlon until now.  Sad panda.

When I returned back to DC Sunday afternoon, I had a massive pile of boxes waiting for me from the neighbor on behalf of UPS and FedEx – some I had expected, some not as much.

First up, I had ordered the Tulio bike skewer multi-tool back a week or so ago, more out of a curiosity than anything else.  The concept being it takes a bike skewer and makes then sets the lever as a small multi-tool with all the common bike tools that you’d need. The only challenge being that I bought the rear-wheel version (not really thinking about it), which means that it wouldn’t work with on a trainer.  Aerodynamics are likely questionable – but this might just be more for my road bike.  Or it might just be interesting because it’s a simple way to ensure I’ve always got a toolkit handy.  Either way, some testing to come there.

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Next I found a package from Wahoo Fitness Extended iPhone/iPod battery pack which enables you to go out and complete that century ride and still use your phone for navigation (with ANT+ support of course).  This gives up to five hours of juice (no, not like Gatorade, but like electricity).

Maybe this will finally push me over the line to write up a proper review of the Wahoo stuff, instead of just sprinkles here and there.

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Nabaiji swimming MP3 player and lap counter.  This unit is going into the large collection I have for the upcoming swimming MP3 player showcase showdown I’ve got on tap soon.  About half a dozen other units in there.  This one is unique though in that it’s the only one that does music as well as counts laps/distance.  This one is more widely available in Europe, than the US.

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And last but not least, the Tacx Bushido wireless VR trainer.  My goal is to get this all setup Monday night, should be fun times ahead.  The Bushido trainer is unique in that it’s completely wireless – with everything communicating via ANT+.  But it has all the same functions that you’d expect in a computer driven trainer, like the ability to ride courses and get detailed analysis and stats.

I’m looking to doing my indoors rides on this over the next while. My goal is to put together a review prior to Turkey Day.  Along with some other trainers coming here shortly.

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There were some other boxes from other folks, but those will have to wait for now.

With that, onto the week ahead!

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9 Comments

  1. Maybe the ideal moment to do a review on wetsuits? ;)

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  2. Swimming in Lake Michigan in October! You are crazy! Not swimming in Lake Superior at any time, but that’s still one cold lake.

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  3. @Mark – When I lived in Chicago I worked at a gym on the lake. We had one member who swam in the lake so late in the season that he had been rescued 4 times from icy conditions and/or hypothermic conditions. That dude was crazy.

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  4. Can’t wait for the trainer reviews! It’s starting to get dark early and work is getting in the way of my mid-week rides.

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  5. I can’t wait to see what more data you can give on the 910XT. I was just about to buy Garmin’s 310 XT when you put up the blog entry on the new model.

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  6. I’m curious how well the bits stay on the Tulio while riding. I’m afraid a crucial piece would fall off during a ride and I wouldn’t know it until it was too late and I needed it. Test it out.

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  7. Anonymous

    Bushido? link to tacxbushido.com what about ANT+ 3rd party powermeter advertise on the website and Garmin GSC-10?
    Luis

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  8. How do you get the Timex ironman thing on your training peaks page?

    Is it only a skin you downloaded? Or something i did not do correctly when installing my TGT?

    It looks cool!

    Thanks!

    Reply
  9. So pleased you’re reviewing trainers, in particular the Bushido. I have one and on the whole I love it but there are some things I’ve experienced that it’d be great to get you opinion on once you’ve used it for a bit.

    – First thing is that their forum support is pants. Please do try and take a look at the many unanswered questions on there to see what I mean. I’ve never used their other forms of support but people aren’t flattering. This is a really important issue when spending £1k on a trainer
    – You can use it without the software perfectly well but you are missing so much functionality you’d be better off buying a trainer that doesn’t have a PC link up if it’s not of interest
    – The simulate rides do linear interpolation. So one second you’re riding on the flat, the next you’re 7%. Impossible to time the gear adjustments properly
    – The speed isn’t accurate. I know all these trainers have calibration issues but this speed is so far out it’s worthless.
    – The brake doesn’t represent the hills correctly. Try riding up a 4% gradient out of the box and you’ll see what I mean. People guess and change the power and brake % settings to try and simulate correctly. Finger in the air stuff. The only way to truly get it right is to use a power meter to calibrate – which most people don’t have. Even then it isn’t consistent across the power ranges – see the forums. Getting the right power output is the one single thing I expect to be right and it isn’t.
    – Garmin HRMs work but you have to pair them every time you use the head unit. If you go out of range (pee, answer the door) you have to pair it again and if you’re in the middle of a session then forget it as you cannot pair it through the PC app – you have to do it through the head unit, which you can only by disconnecting the PC software. Again – see the forums.
    – Getting the brake and head unit firmware updated can be a royal pain in the xxxx. My top tip is to get a USB extension cable and have the USB key sitting right next to the head unit.
    – The head unit doesn’t fit on most handle bars – an age old Tacx issue
    – The set up documentation is not the clearest although I hope they’ve improved it with this latest version.

    Just some things I thought of off the top of my head.

    Other than that I’ve had no problems with the self powered until – works a treat, it never overheats and it’s not too loud either.

    I’ve got the Tacx mat too – waste of time and money at £60 – just put a towel under you. The mat won’t insulate any sound although you may want to put something under the hind legs as they don’t sit flush with the floor – not sure if they are supposed to

    Reply

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