I joined the Palo Alto Run Club at the start of my second running life back in 2001. I had no friends there. It was tough to make conversation with the runners. I tended to just stand all alone before and after the workout -- no one ever really talked to me since we lacked anything in particular to talk about. Then one day a colleague who worked at Nike asked me to test the company's new high-concept sports watch. The following Wednesday I wore the Nike watch to a Palo Alto Club workout. Suddenly all the guys gathered around me asking questions about the watch's specs, functionality, price point and retail availability. It was even a way bigger hit than when I brought my cool, new Hot Wheel toy cars to Maple Park Elementary school back in 1st grade.
I have read so many long, flowery paeans to running's pure, non-material, spiritual nature. But then the reality that I observe is like much else -- it is all about the gear. And in running nowadays that means the sports watches (much more than the shoes or compression gear).
And so I feel reluctantly compelled to keep up with social norms. My Garmin Forerunner 205 has long since fallen out of fashion. So for more than a year I had been awaiting the long-rumored Apple Watch. However when the Apple Watch is finally announced it is clearly not even a remotely acceptable triathlon watch -- for numerous well documented reasons. Presumably a later version, perhaps version 3.0 or 4.0 will be more suitable, but for the present I realized that I needed to stick with a dedicated fitness brand of watch.
So I frantically begun researching other triathlon watch options. The hardcore triathlon teammates I diligently consult with are shocked and dismayed that I am not interested in the Garmin 920XT, the watch of choice for the serious triathletes. The 920XT is just way, way too complicated for me, too expensive, and too heavy. I conclude that the Forerunner 220 is perfectly adequate, and am ready to order one, but then read about the introduction of Vivoactive, a combination GPS sports watch, fitness tracker, and smart watch for the same price.
The Vivoactive announcement states the new watch will be released in Q1 2015, but mine did not actually arrive until late April. When I do finally see the package in my mailbox I am pretty excited of course, as evidenced by my making the de rigueur "unboxing video" -->
As excited about the watch as I may be, it still takes me a week or so before I actually make it through the tiresome, circuitous, and absolutely un-intuitive process of synching up with my iPhone (I needed to upgrade OS for the app), re-establishing a long-lapsed Garmin Connect account, figuring out how to turn on the cycling function (while riding in traffic), etc.
So after all this wait and anticipation and effort to figure out some of the basic functionality of the Vivoactive how do I like it? Um, it is pretty good I guess. Ideally the battery life would be longer and GPS quicker to find satellites, but on the positive side it is very light, works for swimming, the touch-screen navigation is reasonably simple, and it synchs easily with Strava.
Being a "fitness tracker", the Vivoactive immediately starts to berate me about not moving around enough and alerting me each and every hour, about my progress toward reaching the daily goal of 6,267 steps that the Vivoactive established for me. I had difficulty reaching this goal the first few days (partly because I was swimming and cycling and partly because I did not wear the watch throughout the day), and the Vivoactive expressed its disappointment with my seemingly sedentary lifestyle. But my 21k trail run helped me to blow past the goal on Sunday (I recorded 37,801 steps), so I think the watch is placated for the moment.
And once I finally figured out how to synch my watch I was surprised to be buzzed by a text message. I had forgotten that my triathlon watch is also a "smart watch". This means that now I am constantly being interrupted by vibration alerts upon receiving text messages on my watch (when carrying my iPhone). I guess this is kind-of cool – constantly glancing surreptitiously at all the sundry status updates, maintenance notices, promotional ads, and various announcements on my wrist. I mean it did prove helpful when meeting some people in a crowded train station last weekend. Granted the whole constant multi-tasking and disruption lifestyle is what I have largely sought to minimize of late and stay focused on living and being in the moment.
But hey, the important thing is that now I am reasonably up-to-date with the watch technology for the quantified athletes and I will thus be able to socialize with my peers.