Every once and a while we find videos that just perfectly capture the rush of the great training run or the unbelievable race. CLIF Bar produced one video that we though we would share as you head into the weekend and look forward to that tough ride or run.
It was a sudden affair. The sweet, seductive voice of Siri knocked me off my feet when I first turned on my iPhone 4S. She gave me directions, scheduled appointments. But there was something just a bit cold. Two weeks ago a new box arrived that made me my question my feelings. A Canadian company called 4iiii sent me a Sportiiiis unit, a heads-up system designed to attach to your glasses and give active performance feedback.
It's an ingenious system that is remarkably easy to set up. A boom attaches to either stem of your glasses and displays different colored LEDs. I thought it would be hard to connect to the non-standard stem of my Oakley glasses, but it proved to be remarkably easy.
First, I set up the system. I downloaded and installed the software from 4iiis's website. Once the program launched, I attached the device via a USB cable to my Mac. On the screen, I adjusted the target heart rate to match my level 2 or approximately 60% of my max HR for my longer base training program. One press of an on-screen button downloaded my personal information into the boom.
I let the unit charge until the light turned green on the software. The LED lights on the boom also give feedback as they progressively light up as the charge builds.
I strapped on the heart rate monitor that accompanied the device and verified that the two were properly paired. Sportiiiis also allows you to pair the boom with other ANT+ compatible devices - cadence monitors, power meters, etc.
The device will sync with any device that sends ANT+ data to a receiving unit. Currently, GPS watches only receive data, not send when in the record mode. To track running pace, you will need an ANT+ foot pod to get speed while running.
I set out later that week on a long, very hilly ride through the hills of Northern Westchester County in New York. I wasn't sure how visible the LED lights would be in different glaring conditions. I turned the unit on.
If you buy the device, be ready for a little different control logic. Most of the fitness devices on the market have buttons that physically depress to give you the artificial comfort that something has actually happened. In contrast, all functions of the Sportiiiis are controlled through one, touch-sensitive spot on the boom. To turn on, for instance, you touch the button until you hear two beeps, the let go.
I turned on the glasses as I set out for the ride. Then something remarkable happened. A sultry female Australian voice said "Power on." I remembered that the software had volume and frequency settings, but had given it little thought. Suddenly I had another woman along for the ride.
In the harsh daylight of late winter, I could see the LED lights on the boom change color with no problems. The position also allowed me to see the road at the same time. There is no distraction as you receive the feedback.
The audio feedback, though, blew me away. As I started out, the boom told me, "Heart rate below target." Then a few moments later came the sexy voice that said, "Heart rate 101." This was very windy day. As we hit 35 mph down some hills, I could still hear the Sportiiiis calling out my key numbers.
If I had synced the device with a power meter, I would have been able to tap the side of the boom and have it switch instrumentation.
The audio feedback was remarkable. This is like having a coach in a SAG wagon talk to you on a radio. The numbers would confirm how steep the hill was and then tell me how quickly I had recovered on the other side.
Siri, I'm sorry. I'll still keep you around and take you the more dressy affairs. But Sportiiiiss, you are my true weekend fling. Best yet, the luggage monograms don't have to change.
For more information on the device and how to purchase, go to: http://4iiii.com.
Last week, the CLIF Bar team visited NYC and gave us some pre-release samples of new training snacks to try. At the top of the bag was Gary's Panforte, a 260-calorie "limited edition" bar inspired by bike trips through Italy. It was so good, it didn't stay in its bag long enough for a good photo.
Gary Erickson, the CEO of CLIF is an avid cyclist who takes regular cycling trips through Italy. He has enjoyed not only the spectacular climbs -- one of which is featured on the wrapper -- but the food along the way. On one of these journeys, the locals introduced him to local dessert called panforte. It's made from fruit, nuts and resembles fruitcake. The history books make reference to the food all the way back to the 1200's.
Gary challenged his chefs in Berkeley, California to create a bar that captured the essence of the treat. "Gary's Panforte" will be released later this spring. It's 260 calories and loaded with dates, figs, and almonds.
So how do you test a bar like this? You try it on a cold, long, slow ride through the hilly backroads of Northern Westchester County with two friends. When I passed one bar to Dave, my cycling buddy, he said, "If it comes from CLIF, you know it's good food."
I open the bag about 30 miles into our 55 mile ride. The bar exploded in my mouth with the fresh taste of the fruits and spices - I was suddenly eating a fruitcake somewhere in the Dolomites with the locals. The only thing missing was a warm cup of cappuccino. 40 miles into the ride it even tasted better.
I looked in the bag at the end of the weekend I looked in the bag. The only thing I could find was an empy Panforte wrapper. My recommendation: when these treats hit the shelves for a few months this year, buy them when you see them, because they definitely won't last long on the shelves.
Will it be sixty two degress tomorrow or twenty six? This is the time of year when temperatures start to hint of the start of spring. When winter temperatures drop, though, for even a day, it can seem like a week. Hang tough. It can't last lon.
So you have the NYC half marathon coming up in a few weeks? And you have only logged two good long runs? What you should you do? Take a weekend off and drive three hours in search of the only snow that has fallen this year. Two days of cold air, beautiful scenery, and great company on cross country skis made it worth it. So what if you don't get the PR you were looking for? Sometimes the journey is better than the destination.