Monday, February 20, 2012


Diamonds are a girls best friend...

So the saying goes, although I've got a better one.  The new Suunto Ambit is a girls true best friend, or for that matter anyone's true best friend.  The Suunto Northeast Territory Manager Bill Porter has been speaking highly of this watch for sometime now and he was gracious enough to let the watch out of his sights so I could take it for a test run.

You maybe thinking, seriously it is just a watch, but don't be fooled this watch not only looks good and is comfortable, but it also performs beautifully giving you the data and information that you could need whether you are out trail running, mountain biking, ski mountaineering, etc.    Simply stated once you put the Ambit on your wrist you've got GPS navigation, performance tracking and a heart rate monitor.  The watch runs on a rechargeable battery and boasts up to 50 hours of usage on one charge.  

Bill gave me the quick guide along with the watch, but the watch is so user friendly that I didn't need to read the directions.  As Bill had explained to me previously over coffee, the Ambit has technology called FusedSpeed, meaning the watch uses both GPS capabilities along with an accelerometer.  What does this mean?  My understanding is that it has a faster response to changing speeds and terrains, thus it is more accurate overall than simply a GPS.  Also because the watch has GPS and accelerometer capabilities if a GPS signal is lost the accelerometer will keep those numbers ticking until signal is found again.

For my first test run with the Ambit I decided to incorporate exposed roads, class four roads, and of course tree covered single track.  It is no secret I have been using a Garmin 310 for the past several years, but the upside is I have something to compare the Ambit to.  As I put the watch on I immediately notice that the rounded face and low profile of the Ambit make the watch much more comfortable on my small wrist in comparison to my square and boxy Garmin.  I opted not to wear my Suunto heart rate strap, although can attest from past experience that they are very comfortable compared to other companies.  After exiting the house and asking the watch to connect to satellites there was no extending pacing of my driveway waiting for the connection.

I had the display set to show my overall distance, current pace and altitude.  The watch face is extremely easy to read due to the contrast of colors and the size of the numbers.  The buttons are raised from the side surface and push with ease and the watch responds with both a tone and notification on the display that my workout was being started or paused, etc.  Despite having cold hands I was able to operate the watch, unlike my Garmin.

At the end of my run by connecting the watch to my computer all of my stats from my workout were transferred to so I could analyze them or just have them on record for reference.  All said and done I was very pleased with how the watch fit, the lightness of it, and how it kept pace with me no matter what terrain I encountered.  I look forward to learning more about what this watch has to offer me and more specifically my training.  For now I just hope I can outrun Bill so to hold onto his watch until they are released in March/April.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weird Winter Weather

Mid February in Vermont is typically brutally cold with major snow storms and chilly winds.  This year my running life has been made easier with warmer weather and fewer snowplows to play chicken with.

This morning Nick and I took on the task of running an out and back from Huntington up to the top of Camels Hump via back roads and trails. This ended up being around an 18 mile run.  The "out" was approximately 1 downhill mile and 8 miles of uphill.  Once we hit the summit we would come plummeting back down and of course we would be treated to the 1 mile of climbing just to make sure the legs still worked. Due to the nature of the run I packed some extras such as my synthetic down jacket, extra gloves/hat, hand warmers, microspikes and for an extra safe piece of mind an emergency bivy sack (probably could also be used as a body bag as well).

From the start I wasn't feeling overly energetic, despite being excited about running on scenic back country roads and in the mountains.  A few miles in I have to make my Salomon pants into knickers and stash my jacket in my pack, toasty!  After six plus miles of mostly uphill dirt road we arrived at the Camel's Hump parking lot.  From here we opted for the Burrows trail as it was nicely buffed out by all the hikers.  Before we started up I stopped to put on my microspikes so to minimize my chances of breaking my ankle on the way up and my neck on the way down.  Despite it really being rather warm out my hands were not functioning well, so even the simple task of slipping on my microspikes seemed labor intensive.

Finally with my traction situated we were off and running.  I felt hungry, despite it being so early on in the run.  A hungry Aliza is not a happy Aliza.  Nick insisted on snapping a photo and I did my best to put on my happy, but I am still hungry face.  (Side Bar -I did not plan on being a ninja when I took off my jacket, but thats what happened).  We made quick work of the lower section of the trail as the pitch is rather pleasant.  About a third of the way up we encountered a group of lady hikers and their dogs.  They questioned us with "Didn't we drive past you on the road?" Followed by  "You guys are still running?"  With grins we continued on our way and I tried not to think about the steeper sections that were to come.  The upper portion of the burrows isn't so steep that you cannot run it, but it is steep enough that running it isn't really any faster than walking it.  Despite this my stubbornness leads me to want to run every step.

After getting a little ahead of Nick on the trail, and just before reaching the clearing before the finial quarter mile to the summit, I stopped and had a shot block.  Of course it was rock hard, stuck to my teeth and almost came out my nose.  Brilliant! No one should ever be surprised if that is how I die, death by frozen Clif shot block.  With Nick back with me we put on our wind shirts and made our way to the top.  The snow was now deeper, as it is wind blown, but it is worth the extra effort because chances are we will actually have a view at the top today.  Finally at the top, a photo and then we are off again.

As we made our way down the trail it was a gamble on how fast I should really allow myself to get going.  The surface would change from loose snow, to pack snow to ice.  Eventually we crossed paths again with the group of lady hikers and I heard "Took you long enough to summit and get back, I was starting to think you went down a different way."  We exchange smiles and with a good pace going we made easy work of the decent back down the burrows trail.  Before I knew it we were back in the parking lot.  As I took off my microspikes a skier asked how our run was and that reminded me that "Oh crap we still have to run all the way back to the car in Huntington". Nick took his jacket off I decided to keep mine on after he assured me that I wouldn't overheat because we wouldn't be running 6 minute miles.  What a gentlemen, he allowed me to run 6:40's down the access road.  

As we made our way back to the car my energy level drained even further, this run was kicking my butt.   All and all it felt good to have a hard run, with temps just below 40 on the dirt roads and the sun sneaking out behind the clouds ever so often I had a hard time remembering it is February. Believe me I will take it!