A weekend at home and in the pool with the Polar RCX5

This weekend was a bit of a whirlwind – despite being one that in theory shouldn’t have been.  With getting stuck working rather late downtown on Friday night, before I knew it, it was Saturday morning and time to head out on my long ride for the week.

This week the numbers got bumped up once again, up to 3:00h for the first portion, and then two 15-20 minute TT’s that followed.


I was very happy with the first 3:00h, as I managed to average 20MPH on the dot.  Literally the second it went from 2:59:59 to 3:00:00 the odometer rolled over to 60.00.  Sweet!  I know that I should be more looking at power (and I was), but there’s just something satisfying about having it be the magical 20MPH+ on a training ride in the semi-easy ‘Z2’ zone.  Sets up well for longer distances races coming up on the calendar.

Along the way I also wore the Polar RCX5 as I near a product review on that.  Despite installing the speed sensor the night prior, I ended up using the GPS pod to determine distance – since I figured that’d be more interesting to everyone as far as accuracy goes.


I was pretty amazed that when all was said and done some 3:45h later, the Edge 800 and Polar RCX5 only disagreed by 4/10ths of a mile.  Some of that was probably due to occasional stop mis-timings on my part – but even if you exclude my error, that’s pretty impressive over the course of a 75ish mile ride.

I’ll need to finagle with the speed/cadence sensors a bit more early this week, as I had them setup and then they got bumped.  I had very carefully arranged them to have both the ANT+ sensors and Polar sensors on at once, but I think my design was overly complicated and I just need to re-arrange them differently.  No biggie, I suppose that’s why I’m an engineer.

Post-ride I had a 30 minute run to do.  During the higher intensity portions (the parts that counted) I was mid-6’s, so that’s also setting things up well.  By time I was done I was pretty shot, with over 4hrs in the books.  But I believe some of that was simply that I took in too few calories and was probably a bit dehydrated.  Over the next few weeks as the weather turns from cold to hot (it was in the middle on Saturday at about 70*F), I’ve gotta keep in mind to kick up hydration to keep going strong.

After the run…there was pretty much only one thing on ours minds: 7-11


Oh glorious Slurpee…how I love thee!

(Actually, we really love the Starbucks Mocha Lite Frappuccino, as it only has 140cal for a Grande…yet tastes like chocolate amazingness.  Regrettably, there wasn’t any Starbucks anywhere near our ride location. Sad smile)

Moving onto Sunday…

Sunday was a mix of hanging out and wedding planning.  Oh, and sleep.  Lots and lots of sleep.  The wedding planning included the now-weekly validation of tasks on the ever-growing Excel spreadsheet of things to do.  I feel that we end up adding more tasks each week than crossing off.  I’m hopeful that at some point we’ll start sliding the other way.  Though, we did technically nail down all the timings for the ceremony/reception – so that’s a solid achievement.

More importantly to keeping our Coach happy though was the Sunday long swim.  We knocked this out just before the closing bell at the pool.  Leaving me exactly 8 minutes to get all my swim/underwater related pictures in for the RCX5 review.

See, unlike the Garmin’s (which use ANT+ to communicate), the RCX5 actually reads your heart rate in the water via the Polar Hybrid strap.  So for some it can be a useful training or data gathering tool there, plus it even includes a nifty ‘Swimming’ mode, complete with a swimmer graphic:


The only challenge I tend to have is that no matter how tightly I put on the HR strap, or which way I orient it (front or back), it just slides off me due to the water pressure on a flip turn.  For The Girl, it’s fine, as it’s under her swim suit so it doesn’t go anywhere.  But for a guy, or at least me, before a lap or two it’s down around my waist like a belt.

Nonetheless, if you don’t have any slippage problems, then it will indeed display and record heart rate, as you can see on the top line in the photo below.


Also of note is that unlike most watches, the lap/split time on the RCX5 is super-easy to read during a set/flip by just barely tilting your wrist.  The screen has no weird reflections – which is great!


(For the record, yes Coach, I know, not enough core rotation)

With the swim complete, it was back home to talk to my parents (Mothers Day after all!) and then more wedding related goodness.  It’s coming up soon…less than two months away!

As far as other things that are soon, I’m hoping to get the RCX5 review out sometime this week – though that will depend heavily on getting access for my RCX5 beta unit to be able to talk to their new website.  At the moment that’s scheduled for tomorrow, so we’ll see.  No worries though, if that doesn’t quite come through in time for this week I’ll be sure to still have lots of goodness for you in other forms!

Thanks for reading all, and have a great week!

Oh…P.S.!  If you didn’t get a chance to see the ‘Week in Review’ post yesterday, then at the very least check out two items of note.  1) An amazing story from a friend of mine about her working her butt off to make the cut to be a F-15 fighter pilot while also making the A standard for the 2012 Olympic Trials…and then 2) An incredible YouTube video, also about a female runner, who will just blow you away.

P.P.S: Ok, one more thing.  Thanks to everyone who’s commented on wanting wireless ANT+ transfers for the Edge series of cycling devices, particularly to be able to sync w/o a computer to a cell phone.  Glad that’s something at least 50+ of you are interested in!


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  1. I am still surprised that you are enjoying the Polar as it uses a separate unit for measuring the gps coordinates. I remember you telling me that you didn’t like this kind of set up as the Suunto also does this and while it might not be a full on tri-watch it does use a similar concept. So what gives?

    Anyway. I love the fact that the watch works well underwater, maybe consider wearing a tri-top to compensate for the slippage, and that it doesn’t produce the annoying reflection that you normally see with other watches.

    Well I look forward to the complete polar review and the comparison between the rest of the tri/running watches.

  2. jeff

    That’s a pretty long training session. Are you planning an Ironman for this summer?

  3. Mr. A-

    In general, that’s quite true, and in the case of the Polar RCX5 – that’s still my chief complaint (pod-based GPS). That said, some folks find the benefits of HR while underwater and argueably more advanced HR driven calorie analysis as a major driver for the Polar’s. So in the grand scheme, it’s only one aspect to look at. Of course, in my full review it’ll be something I touch upon.


    Nope, no Ironman’s in my future this year – just Boise 70.3 in June.

  4. I do my swim training in the same pool as that national swim team of the Netherlands. I can admire their great technique when they speed by in the lanes next to the recreational swimmers.
    But some of them wear heartrate straps with suspensers, it looks a bit strange, but I guess it gets the job done :-)

  5. Idea of HR strap with suspenders makes me smile!

    Thanks for sharing Caroline’s story about fighter pilot training and the Olympic trials – it was pretty amazing, I hope all continues to go so well for her!

  6. Wes

    yea, we’ll see how well you swim in a couple of months with that new ball and chain. BWAHAHAHAHA I killz me… (if the girl doesn’t get to me first)

  7. Great write up. One note though, you refer to the Garmin RCX5 by mistake. Cheers!

  8. Anonymous

    Late comment on the NYT article “How Sugar Affects the Body in Motion” and your Slurpee. When I first started running, when I was in my late 20s, I had the typical belief that I could eat whatever I wanted. And I could, and never got fat. But then my life changed and I lived on the side of a hill and could no longer run so I was riding my bicycle to and from work and could continue to eat whatever I wanted. Then things changed even more and I was unable to commute on my bicycle, although I could have started running again but unfortunately didn’t. So I became a middle aged couch potato and kept my previous eating habits. As the years went by my weight went from 170 to 230 (I’m 6’3″). When it hit 230 I realized that I needed to do something and changed my eating habits. That was several years ago. I started running again last year. Now my weight is down to 180 but I still have a bit of a spare tire that I want to get rid of. The moral of the story is that it’s a good idea to develop and maintain good eating habits regardless of how much you exercise.

  9. Does the Polar measure laps with an acceleromater or GPS? Will it work indoors? What frequency are they using to transmit heartrate underwater? Is it the same frequency that works above water?

  10. Has Polar given you any idea of release date and retail pricing?


  11. Chubby-

    No dates as of yet.


    On a bike or treadmill it will work with the various sensors (footpod or speed sensor). In the water it just records times, no distances. As well as recording HR underwater.

  12. Hi DC,
    A Question a little out the post :
    I’m a triathlete as 3 years(32 years old, starting classic distance this season) and I’m looking for a new GPS heartrate monitore. You did review (and good:) on all the Garmin and the timex but none of the polar (out of this topic).
    Why ?
    Lionel from switzerland

  13. Hi Lionel-

    I’m still planning on doing the RCX5 review. At the moment there is a holdup where the pre-production unit I have is unable to upload data to the PolarPersonalTrainer.com site – making it rather difficult to review the product. Hopefully that’ll be resolved the first week of June.


  14. Hi again DC,
    another question : Do you know if the G5 is waterproof like the 310 XT or not?
    And do you know if there is a way to mesure HR in the water with the garmin 310XT ? (it is maybe not the right post to ask that but I try.

  15. The G5 is IPX7 waterproofed, so similiar to the rest of the Garmin line except the FR310XT. In other words, 30mins at 1m deep.

    Unlike the Garmin’s with ANT+, the Polar RCX5 measures heart rate in the water just fine. Good to go!

    And nope, with the FR310XT there is no way to measure HR today. In the future you’ll probably see some ANT+FS straps released which will store the data and then upload it to ANT+ head units once out of water. But nothing thus far.