5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Finally, a relatively calm weekend here at home.  Now technically the weekend is still continuing here, as Monday is a public holiday for many in France.  And while the weather wasn’t quite as nice as last weekend, we made the best of it.

1) Swim with the Expat Tri team

Friday late afternoon we headed a few blocks away from the Eiffel Tower to join up the Paris Expatriés Triathlon club for a swim session.  To date during my nearly four years in Paris, I’ve only ever swam in public pools (during public hours).  So swimming with a team would be a first.  Most notably that the pool was otherwise closed to the public during this timeframe, making it quite a bit calmer.


The workout was pretty good, a bit of variation.  And most importantly – I didn’t have to deal with 19 other people in my lane of varying speed.  Everyone in my lane was quite brisk.

Both The Girl and I swam.  Regrettably, our post-swim selfie didn’t come out too strong.  GoPro had generally crap pictures inside the pool for some reason.  Odd.  Sorry!

2) Gotta Lotta Watches

I headed out Saturday afternoon for a 70ish minute run with a boatload of watches.  I was doing GPS and optical HR accuracy testing, primarily of the FR735XT and Vivoactive HR.  Though, anytime I’m collecting data I’m doing so with current firmware on various watches.  So I was equally curious if GPS improvements had been made with the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical since that came out last fall.  So kinda a twofer type test.

Except, with 6 watches:


(Garmin Vivoactive HR, Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Garmin FR920XT, Suunto Ambit3 Vertical, Polar V800)

When I’m dealing with optical HR sensor watches, I like to only have one per wrist.  For GPS testing, I place the remainder on the upper shoulder straps of my CamelBak, which gives it good strong GPS signal location without much interference.

In this case, all 6 watches came out fairly close.


Here’s the analysis link if you want to dig into them a bit more.  All units tracked very closely, with them all within 100m +/- of the FR735XT.  The only notable variations you see in the GPS track was a single large bridge underpass, and some slight differences at the turnaround point.

Oh, and I was wearing Varia Vision connected to the FR735XT:


Short summary of that experience: While I find it just fine and dandy with cycling, it’s bound to make you motion sick while running.  My sunglasses bounced around quite a bit.  That said, it was kinda nifty not having to ever glance at your watch.

Afterwards, The Girl and I grabbed a rather late lunch at the crêperie around the corner:

2016-05-14 18.20.02

Hard to top off that ending to a run.

3) Rooftop battery tests

Well, I was back on the roof trying to kill watch batteries again this weekend.  Specifically, the FR735XT’s battery.  Now the battery in this unit has been of interest to a lot of folks, due to its claimed 14hr battery life (with optical HR & GPS enabled).  Some have said that seems odd given an Ironman has a 17hr cutoff.

So I was curious: What if you saved on the optical HR and instead used just GPS and traditional sensors?  Even more so since the optical HR is disabled during a swim (1-2 hours likely for those above 14hr finishing times).  How long would the watch go on just GPS alone?

Well, I set out to find out.  First test came in at 19hrs (well, 15 seconds short of it), but that was with Smart Recording, and there wasn’t a ton of data.


So I set up another test last night, this time using an ANT+ simulator and 1-second recording to generate continual HR/Power/Speed/Cadence data.  More on that once it finishes.

2016-05-15 20.14.58

As for testing optical for long-life battery tests, I haven’t quite come up with a great idea.  Some people have put watches on potatoes, meat, and other objects to get a fake pulse.  That might work…but I have a feeling that leaving a steak atop my roof might result in some pretty interesting footage that’s not at all related to the watch.

4) Birthday Parties:

Saturday afternoon The Cake Studio was filled with kids for a birthday party.  I had thus spent the morning ensuring that it was a bit more kid-proofed than usual.  While we often have events in there for adults, kids present an interesting…challenge.  Especially in what’s otherwise a day to day working kitchen (with the DCR Cave below it underground).

With our office space soon full of extra mixers and baking racks, The Girl and I got busy getting the main table all ready.


The space had been rented for a kids birthday party, and The Girl would be working with them to decorate their own cupcakes.  She’d channel her inner school teacher (remember, she used to be a teacher in the states before we moved to Paris).


On top of that, she had done a full cake as well as some mini-cupcakes too.


She created a few more simple sample cupcakes, which would be what the kids would use as inspiration for their own little creations.  The theme of the party was Monster High.  I even created a Monster High Spotify list…which…will invariably confuse my recommended songs for some time to come.


As for the end-creations?  The kids each took home a box of two cupcakes.  Here’s a sample of a few of them, ready to take home:


Not too shabby!

5) Openwater swimming at the lake


Finally, on Sunday we headed up to the lake to go for an openwater swim with a few of our friends.  We did about 2,000m or so, just a simple out and back.


It would be the first openwater swim for me with the FR735XT.  Since the unit will automatically disable the optical HR sensor during swimming, I went ahead and connected it to the HRM-TRI, so I could download HR data afterwards.

Seemed to work just fine.  The only annoyance was that I didn’t realize a 500y auto-lap was enabled, and I can’t seem to find any obvious way to disable any auto-lap settings once the activity starts (unlike other watches).  I had the same problem during my run as well on Saturday (1-mile auto-lap enabled by default). Somewhat frustrating.


Afterwards, we lounged around in the grass and setup a bit of a picnic for a few hours.


Not too bad a way to end the weekend!

With that – thanks for reading!


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  1. Swimnbike Ken


    i like your definition of “relative calm weekend”
    La dolce vita in Paris!

    Enjoy and have a good week.

  2. Curious how the optical HR worked compared to traditional HR monitors while running/cycling? Close? I was just about to purchase the 920tx when i heard about this model just this weekend. Since I don’t do IM-distance races, and i hate wearing a HR strap, the optical HR sounds like a dream– with the caveat that it actually is accurate.

    • Hi Karen-

      You can dive into the analysis and compare the HR data sets here: link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

      There are four HR sensors being worn:

      A) Garmin Vivoactive HR (ELEVATE Optical HR Sensor)
      B) Garmin FR735XT (Elevator Optical HR Sensor)
      C) Scosche Optical HR Sensor (on Ambit3 Vertical)
      D) Garmin HRM-TRI Chest Strap (on FR920XT)


  3. morey000

    I had a good time looking at your data comparator of the run. Looks like the new 735xt did just fine, gps accuracy wise. The v800 is in your photo, but not in the comparator. Would love to see what the v800 had to say. thx.

  4. Asaf

    Great comparison test!
    Surprisingly, the Vertical did better than the peak when you crossed under the bridge… I wish there was some kind of algorithm that can generate a score, as opposed to a “naked eye score”.
    A delta between the GPS line and the satellite map roads. Obviously, you don’t run in a perfect line, but it’s more likely that you ran on the same course than on water or on another street lane. If you can calculate all those errors and sum it up, it would make the comparisons much more quantified.
    Still, I’m very impressed by the performance of all the watches. it goes to show GPS wars are more of an ego wars than a real issue.

    • Mike

      I live and run in downtown Toronto and have tested several watches in dense building areas with occluded satellite conditions. I can tell you that skewed tracks in those conditions are more about where the satellite is in the sky and how the signals bounce, rather than the watch’s GPS performance. You could repeat the same test 30min later and get different results, because the satellites moved. Having a tough conditons track-delta number would not reflect watch performance.

    • Asaf

      So basically you say every watch can out shine another at any given time, as a function of the satellites location. This makes conparison test even more random. Perhaps if we had access to, for example, Strava data, one can calculate an average score for a product across different times and places… Knowing the segment length. Surely they analysed some form of product comparison.

  5. Remco Verdoold

    You seemed to have much better than us 500 km more north. Enjoy it!
    I got a HRM-Tri this weekend and was curious, I had the option to download the HRM data, but I did not do that since I used it for a run. Should I have done that? or only with a swim?

    • In general for a run there’s no reason to sync, unless you expected/had dropouts for some reason during the run.

      Ironically, my run was actually a perfect example of where I should have re-sync’d the data to the 920XT/HRM-TRI. That’s because the HRM-TRI appeared to be out of range of the 920XT 3-4 times along the run, so there 3-4 ‘0’ drops in there. This is simply because I had it on the back of the CamelBak, whereas the transmitter was in front of my body. A sync would resolve that.

    • Remco Verdoold

      Thanks for the info as always.

  6. Phil S

    Hi Ray
    Glad you had a nice weekend.
    I’m very interested in the Varia Vision, mainly for running as I monitor my heart rate very closely. Will you be doing an in depth review soon?
    Also, can you use your immense influence in this field to get a release date for the Everysight. That looks better for running but I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait.
    Many Thanks

    • Everysight is certainly positive looking.

      I don’t have a specific date for Varia Vision review, but likely early June. Right now I’m working to get out the Vivoactive HR review for this week, and then the FR735XT review for the first week of June. Will kinda see what next week looks like review-wise and go from there.

    • Phil S

      Thanks Ray
      Just under your response was an ad banner for XMetrics (which I clicked on).
      Looks interesting
      You made a brief mention of this in your ISPO 2016 post. Are you planning on testing this?

    • Hi Phil-

      At the moment I’m not planning on testing it, though, that reminds me to add them to my ad blocked list.

      I think the pricing is just really tough to justify right now on that product.

  7. Janne

    When we are going to see Vivoactive HR review? I’m really excited to that product and looking forward to see how Ray liked the product. Especially how Vivoactives optical heart rate monitoring works with cycling is quite interesting.

  8. Husain

    Hi Ray, thanks for the analyse tool. Do optical HR readings lag further behind a chest strap? Im using the Fenix 3 HR and finding the lag annoying in that I have stop and start intervals more on feel rather than HR.

  9. Frank

    Hi Ray

    Can you give us a sneak peak at battery life time for the 735XT, i really would like this watch.
    I really hope the battery will last for 12/13 hours with multiple external sensors and without optical HR


  10. Great that you are able to train with a team now! Races coming soon?

    I have that Monoprix bag :p I bring reusable grocery bags back from France… an interesting souvenir choice but it always makes for good conversation while grocery shopping here.

  11. Chris

    Wondering if you think a wider frame would make the Varia Vision more stable when running? Something like this Tifosi I was thinking:

    link to tifosioptics.com

    Tough to tell how wide the frame is on your sunglasses in the picture.

  12. On my test with the Varia Vision I came to the same conclusions. It’s way too unstable mounted on the frame of the glasses while running. And I didn’t even try to do any sprints…

    It depends on the pair of glasses you have, but if you own a light frame (what mostly everyone would have for running/cycling) I don’t find it confortable at all.

  13. Tim K

    Why the lanyard on the roof?

  14. Tyler

    What’s that crepe dish called?

    Been trying to create something similar at home, except with the Swedish version of crepes.
    Curious for some cooking pointers for getting it all cooked well at the same time.

  15. Tim Grose

    Does your “analysis” suite have a facility to plot distance accumulated vs time for various devices? Sometimes I think distance variance device to device is mainly due to a “jump” somewhere – probably just a spot of poor GPS. Other times it seems more systematic. For instance sometimes the Strava app on my iPhone “grows” quicker than the Garmins evenly throughout the run. This often got to over 0.5 mile in some long runs – say 15 miles or so. Other times it would match the Garmins much better. I think such a graph would it make it easier to verify such things but not found an “out of the box” facility as yet and just been lazy in trying to create one myself. Thinking it something like a variant of the “Compare” tool for Strava segments would do well as would flatten the lines if you just took differences not absolute distances.

  16. luyi_pr

    Elevation wise, the 735xt seemed all over the place and about half of 920xt. Not much elevation though, but kinda disappointing. Still thinking if I should replace my 920xt, kinda like the form factor of the 735xt.

  17. Sai R

    Big Fan 🙂 Love your reviews.Garmin FR235 or Vivoactive HR as daily fitness tracker. Given the sale with Clever training?!

  18. Christoffer J

    Thanks for all the deep info you provide Ray.

    I have a Mio Link HRM armband. Will the 735XT get pulse data from it in real time like my older 910XT does? Provided I have the armband next to the watch of course.