4 Days with my Fitbit Charge HR

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I admit it; I have succumbed to the fitness tracker craze. I have joined the millions of people around the world who track everything (steps, heart rate, stairs, calories burned, sleep, etc.) in a hope of living a healthier life. So how do I feel about the Fitbit? Here is my review.

Initial Thoughts
Wearing it doesn’t bother me. I always wear a watch, always. When you are blind like me and can’t see the alarm clock, you have to wear one and make sure it has Indiglo so you can see the time when you wake up in the middle of the night. So this wasn’t a major transition. Some people have said it is too bulky but I don’t get that. The Fitbit isn’t very fashionable or feminine but how often do people judge you based on the watch you wear (unless you are wearing a $50,000 Rolex).

I find it a bit annoying that I have to push a button to see the time. But that is a minor annoyance. A major annoyance is the thing isn’t waterproof...say what?  How can they not waterproof this thing, it can’t be that hard? All my Timex and Garmin watches are waterproof. They say it is “sweat proof” and “splash proof.” What good does that do me? I’m afraid to wear it in the rain! And I hate having to take it off when I shower. But I will get over it.

Steps and Distance
As for counting steps it seems fairly accurate. I compared the my step counter on my smartphone to my Fitbit and they were really close. I think the Fitbit might be a little more sensitive and tracks less than the phone. I tested it during two runs this weekend while also using my Garmin watch which has GPS. On Friday I did 2.25 miles and my Fitbit said 2.1 miles. Saturday I did 4.25 miles and my Fitbit said 4.45. If you average the two runs it was off by less than 1%.  Overall that is acceptable.

Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)
I have read many reviews on the Fitbit before I purchased and the main criticism was the HRM is never right. I don’t agree. Maybe they wear it in the wrong position? I'm not sure. I periodically check my heart rate during resting times and I have been using a HRM for runs for about 3 months now. So I knew what to expect. My resting heart rate has always been in the mid-to-upper 40s. The Fitbit says my average resting heart rate is 47 bpm. That is pretty darn close to what I would expect. I have done tests with my phone's HRM and my Fitbit at the same time and they are generally within a couple beats of each other. I love being able to see my heart rate during the middle of the night. The Fitbit data shows your average heart rate in 5 minute increments. While sleeping, my heart rate will go down into the 30s. My heart must be healthy if it doesn’t have to work that hard! (I hope!)

I have taken it on two runs and both times it was right about where my Garmin HRM would have me (145-155). So I think for the most part the HRM on the Fitbit is accurate.

Sleep Tracker
I never thought I’d get any use out of the sleep tracker but I have to say it is kind of fun to look at. According Fitbit my sleep efficiency is in the upper 90%. It tells how many times you were restless and how many times you were awake...drinking too much water during the day if you know what I mean. Ha!  You can see what time you feel asleep, what time you woke up, how long you were in bed and how much actual sleep you got. I’m a creature of habit. I go to bed and wake up at roughly same time every day, even on weekends (although I slept in on Saturday as you see below).

Other Data
The Fitbit has data for just about everything. It tells you how many sets of stairs you have climbed, how many calories burned per minute and minutes in each of the active zones (Fat burn, Cardio or Peak). If you like numbers and data you will love the Fitbit!

Syncing and the Dashboard
If you set it up to sync with a smart phone it will update all day. It gives you warnings if it doesn’t think you will reach your daily goals. I have some issues with syncing but I think that is a problem with my phone’s Bluetooth. Eventually everything syncs up. Below is some of the dashboard information. It is very straightforward and easy to use and full of all sorts of cool information, After 4 days, I’m hooked on this thing. I wish I had it before we went to London…I’m sure I would have had a ton of steps during that trip! 
Main Dashboard
Sleep Tracker Detail

Part 2 : Belgium, Germany and Netherlands

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I typically write about my travel experiences as they happen but I’m really lacking on this trip. I’m going to break it up into two parts: London and Brussels.

Welcome to Brussels
Our train arrived an hour late but it was so nice to be in Brussels finally! And to see Elizabeth after getting off the train was a welcome relief. She loaded us up in her car and we headed for the Embassy. She is special; she has diplomat plates so she can park in designate areas for free. A nice perk! We walked into town and headed to one of her favorite pubs/bars. We shared a cheese plate and some drinks (non-alcoholic for us!). We meandered into the Grand Palace, one of my favorite squares in Europe. But there is scandal now…a Starbucks has ruined the square!  LOL! We took some pictures before heading to the Manneken Pis…ie the peeing boy. Unfortunately he wasn’t dressed up. Apparently if they do dress him they take the clothes off by 4pm. We were a bit late for that.  Our first dinner in Brussels was…Greek! Haha!  Jim, Elizabeth’s husband met us for dinner. It was good. I’ve never had Greek before.  We rode the subway back to the car and headed to Elizabeth’s house for the night.

Our first road trio was to Ghent. But first we went to the market for the best waffles ever! OMG Delicious! After the market we drove past Waterloo Battlefield (you know Napoleon) and stopped at the Neuhaus Chocolate Factory. We got our 3 kilos (of chocolate). We also got to sample every variety of chocolate they make. AMAZING! Next was Ghent.

Ghent is a cool old town that was featured in the movie Monuments Men. Inside the cathedral is the altar piece that was saved from the Nazis. It was quite the cathedral. Very nice place indeed.  Ghent reminds me of Amsterdam and looks very Dutch. We toured the castle where they store all the torture devices. We got to see an actual guillotine with the original blade. Yikes! The views from this castle were great. We met Jim for dinner at this great German restaurant. I like my wieners.

Monschau, Germany, Aachen, Germany and Maastricht, Netherlands
Day 2 was a trip to a fairytale town of Monschau, Germany. It is a very small town tucked in the mountain valley.  I loved it. Next was Aachen, Germany which had old roman ruins, an amazing cathedral with Charlemagne bones (Holy Roman Emperor from 800-814) and Starbucks! We ate at this great German sausage haus restaurant. Yum! Our last stop was Maastricht, Netherlands, a medieval city. We walked around the city and saw the old city wall. It was a very quick trip but our time with Elizabeth was commando tourism…we did that well! To celebrate our successfully day we had dinner at Pizza Hut! Lol!

WWI Day Flanders Field Cemetery, Passchendaele Museum, Tyne Cot Cemetery and Atomium
The last day was rather somber. We explored WWI sites. We saw battlefields, trenches, dugouts, and cemeteries. We started out at Flanders Field where over 300 Americans are buried, a very nice cemetery. We toured the Passchendaele Museum were we experienced the trenches and dugouts of the war. After a quick lunch at the Cheese Factory we headed to Tyne Cot Cemetery. There are over 12,000 British Commonwealth soldiers buried there. Their cemetery was beautiful with planted flowers in front of all the gravestones.  There were a lot of British school kids there…they weren’t quite as respectful!  Before heading back to Elizabeth’s house we stopped at the Atomium. It was constructed for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. We didn’t go inside but we took our picture next to it. Our last dinner in Brussels as at IKEA. I know what you are thinking but ha! It is European!

Flight Home
Our last morning in Brussels we went to market for another fabulous waffle before making our way the airport. We had a great time with Elizabeth in Brussels. She is a wonderful host! Our flights were pretty uneventful. We had to go through border control in Iceland and got right back on a plane. We got back to Minneapolis around 6pm. Bonnie picked us up and our first stop was Starbucks for Juliette (she was going through withdrawals!) and Culver’s so Katelynn can try a great Midwest burger joint.  It was a very successful trip!

Part 1 : London

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I typically write about my travel experiences as they happen but I’m really lacking on this trip. I’m going to break it up into two parts: London and Brussels.

This was our second trip with Icelandair and I really have nothing but good things to say about them. Yes, it is true they don’t give you food but let’s be honest, who really likes that crappy food the legacy airlines give you on international flights...yuck! They have food you can buy on board. On the flight out to London I didn’t buy anything. Secondly, the flight to Iceland is only 5 1/2 hours. It is almost like flying to California so I don’t have a problem with the no food thing. Thirdly, they basically own the Iceland airport so the layovers are short and the distance from one gate to the next isn’t that far. We literally had to walk 25 feet for our next flight.

Juliette sat in the middle seat to begin with but her screen wasn’t working so I volunteered to switch with her. It made for a long flight but I was happy she could watch movies. I had my tablet which had movies on it.  The second flight from Iceland to London was uneventful. I got a really good nap on that one.

Customs, Tube, Hotel and the First Night
Customs at Heathrow was a breeze. Thankfully we didn’t have any problems! We gathered our luggage and got our tube tickets and were on our way (an hour long tube ride) to our hotel. We checked into the hotel and it was really nice. Our room was fantastic…huge by European standards. Juliette and Katelynn’s was really small…European standards.

Our first trip into London was to Leicester Square to pick up our London Passes. Next we walked to Trafalgar Square and hoped on the Original Tour. It was a very long ride but it was an excellent introduction to London for the girls. We saw all the major sites and they got a bit of history too.  After our tour, we ventured over to the London Eye for our “flight.” By this point we were starving so we had some fish and chips along the river before heading back to the hotel for the night. I’m very proud at how long the girls lasted on the first day with very little sleep!

Buckingham Palace, Changing of Guard, Harry Potter Market, St. Pauls Cathedral, Shakespeare Globe Theater & London at Night
Our first morning we let the girls sleep in a bit. Our first event of the day was the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. There were a ton of people there so we didn’t get a very view of the events but the two bands played many songs. The one group even played Sing, Sing, Sing.  I love that song! I think the girls were bored with it.

We walked down to Westminster Abbey and hopped on the river cruise to the Tower of London. We walked to the Leadenhall Market (used in the Harry Potter Movie). We stopped at Pizza Express for lunch. It was delicious! After that we walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral and toured the inside. The girls wanted to go up into the dome so we hiked up 528 steps to the top. This is the third time I’ve done the steps now…I’m a pro!

After St. Paul’s we hopped on the tube to Earl’s Court to see the Doctor Who police box. We recharged our engines with a stop at Starbucks before heading to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater for the performance of As You Like It. It was a good play…a bit long but what do you expect with Shakespeare! Katelynn loved it as she recently starred in it at her high school. Thankfully we bought nice seats as it poured during the performance and the people in the yard got soaked.  I could never be in the yard…stand for 3 hours in the elements. Yikes! Since it turned into a nice night after the rain, we walked around St. Pauls’ Cathedral and the Tower of London to get night pictures. It was a late night!

Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, Summer Breeze 10K & Platform 9¾
Our first stop on Saturday was at Westminster Abbey. It was nice to see the inside abbey, I think that was the first time I was inside and not at an Evening Song. There are a lot of people buried there! It was nice to be in the place that Will and Kate got married. It was cool. We got caught up in the Trooping of the Colour parade. Well not the actual parade…that was still 2 hours away but the crowds of people waiting for the parade. We high tailed it out of there and headed to Kensington Palace…boring as usually. We ran out of time and had to stop at Starbucks for a quick lunch for the bus on our way to the Summer Breeze 10K. More about the 10K in a different post but I will say it was fun but VERY HARD! After the race we take the bus, train and tube to Oxford Street. First stop was the Angus Steakhouse. Sorry Juliette…I needed a steak! We did some shopping on Oxford Street before heading back to the hotel. First we stopped at The Harry Potter Shop at King’s Cross Station. There was a line for the platform 9 ¾ thing so we went back to the hotel to shower before heading back to Kings Cross Train Station around 10pm to take our pictures at Platform 9 ¾. It was a relatively early night. We FaceTime with Katelynn’s family. Day three was successful!

Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park and Abbey Road & London at Night
Our last full day in London was busy. We started out at the Tower of London. I love the Tower of London. There is so many fun things to see there including the Crown Jewels. We spent the whole morning covering the tower. We headed to the Tower Bridge for the next stop. We got to go up into the bridge and walk across the top. They have a new glass floor that opened late last year or early this year. It was cool but if I had paid full price for the tour I’d be disappointed as it is a bit boring. The glass floor now makes it somewhat worth it.

After a quick stop on Fleet Street for a photo op, we headed to Harrods’s and Hyde Park. Hyde Park is so nice. I also like Holland Park but unfortunately we didn’t get there. Anyways we walked through the park to Princess Diana’s Memorial fountain. I really like the fountain. Eventually we made our way to Abbey Road. We got the classic pose of the girls walking across the street. I’m quite impress with the picture. It only took one take.  We hurried to Westminster Cathedral for the 7pm Mass. A very short mass…no singing!

After Mass we stopped at the Albert Pub for dinner. It was a great meal but the service was horrible…so bad that we were there almost 2 hours. But that is ok as it was really dark when we got done for the last night of pictures at night. We did Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye and Piccadilly Circus. It was another late night.

The Doctor Who Shop
After checking out of the hotel we hopped on the tube for our last trip to West Ham. A very interesting part of London…very! We did some shopping at the Doctor Who Shop. I wasn’t overly impressed with the shop and its location was horrible. Oh well, we got back to the hotel and grabbed our luggage for the next part of our journey on the Eurostar…

Summer Breeze 10K

Sunday, June 14, 2015

All I can say is wow! It was a tough race! I’m not sure how I feel about trail runs. Yes I know my time is slow because it was a trail run with hills, hills and more hills! There was zero pavement, it was either grass or dirt. 

The Start
We started on the playing fields so it was grass. I paced myself slower than usually because I knew this was going to be a long hard race. I passed a few people but for the most part I was alone. There were rolling hills in the beginning and my 12:41 for the first mile wasn’t great but I wasn’t unhappy with it. Mile two had a big climb which makes sense why I lost over a minute on that mile. Somewhere during mile 2 was a water stop. Everybody was so supported and cheered us on it. It was great to have that support. When I was feeling lonely they picked up my spirit.  Around mile 2.5 I ran into Juliette. She of course was almost done with mile 4. The course had a point where we were running at each other. It was at this point I saw the Hill of Doom.  Juliette was just about climb it. I was going back into the woods for another 2 miles.

The Middle
After the water stop before mile 3 my iPod quit working. It might be the water I dumped over my head, I’m not sure. That was ok. I just stuck it in my bra (I had no pockets!).  It was nice to hear the outside noises. Mile 3 makes me mad. I can’t believe I walked so much of it. It was around this time that I caught up with a couple girls. They were also doing a walk/run routine. So I would catch up to them and they would start running. You know that old game…I had them in my sites for most of the run.  I ran around the woods and just waited for the Hill of Doom. I popped out of the woods and saw Eric and Katelynn at the same spot I saw Juliette…except this time I was finishing mile 4 and they were heading into the woods.  I walked up the Hill of Doom. A woman I passed on the hill scared me when she said this wasn’t the Hill of Doom. I thought holy crap, there is a worse hill!  Thankfully she was wrong!

The End
Once on top of the Hill of Doom It was mostly clear sailing down to the finish line. But the finish seemed to never come!  The run down the hill was very steep to the point I actually walked because I thought it would be safer for my ankles! We got back down to the bottom by the creek. By this point the some of the half marathoners had passed me…they started 30 minutes after us. One of them was really nice to me and said you are almost there, you got this! Again it picked up my spirit. I finished mile 6 strongish (it was my fastest mile after mile 1). The last quarter mile was on grass again, I would much rather run on dirt. I tried to finish strong but I didn’t have it in me. I was so glad to be done with this race. Eric and Katelynn came in about 35 minutes after me. We all successfully completed the 10K! And we completed one "Across the Pond!"

Maps, Splits and Pictures

Katelynn’s Graduation

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It was a great long weekend in Eugene, Oregon.

The flight to Eugene was really uneventful except for the bumpy landing into Salt Lake City…why is it always so bumpy?  We got our luggage, rental car and headed straight to Phil and Susan’s house from the airport. We immediately went to lunch at a Mongolian grill. It was delicious. We went back the house and relaxed. Phil eventually came home and had spaghetti for dinner. Before too long it was time to check into the hotel and head to the Baccalaureate Mass. We arrived a bit late but I got a seat with Susan, her mom and sister. Eric and Phil stood in the back until the priest said there was room up front by the teachers. Eric and Phil got front row seating. The Mass was nice but a bit long. It was very warm in the church and an older woman passed out right in by our pew. After Mass we went back to the house and Eric and Phil went to get Terry and Judy.

We met the family at the high school gym for graduation. It was another warm day and the gym wasn’t air conditioned and didn’t even have fans. Even though Katelynn had the smallest class at 133, her graduation was the longest. There were a lot of speeches. The first speech was great. Probably one of the best ones I’ve heard in a while. I actually paid attention to what she was saying. The other speeches were kind of boring. When they handed out diplomas the announcer said where they were going for college and other words the graduate wanted to share. Some thanked their parents. Others thanked themselves…it was really humorous. Before the diplomas were all handed out an older man passed out on the bleachers.  2 pass outs in 2 days! It was so nice to get outside in the fresh air with a breeze.  After graduation we met at Shari’s CafĂ© and Pies where I had one of the best grilled cheeses ever. It was so good, I wish I would have ordered the whole sandwich and not just a half. We missed Katelynn’s recital because the service was a bit slow. We went to 4pm Mass.

Mass and Evening
So we went to the 4pm Mass at Phil’s church, St. Peter. When Eric’s dad said it looked like pole shed he wasn’t kidding. I guess it used to be a gym. The priest was from India. His sermon was long…really long. I was sitting between Phil and Eric. Both of them were holding the bridge of their noses. Terry was sleeping as was many of the other people around us. The sermon was a solid 20-25 minutes. I had met my tolerance for speeches and sermons for the day.  Afterwards we had a cookout at the house. At around 7, Susan remembered she forgot to pick up the cake…oops! So I went with her to pick it up at Fred Meyers. Interesting place. The cake was great. White with lemon filling. It was a nice day. 

We made Phil wake up early for a race in Salem, OR about an hour north of Eugene. It was great to cross another state off my race list. After the race we walked around the state capitol grounds. After we got back to Eugene and a quick shower we met the family at a great Mexican restaurant. It was very good. The rest of the day we hung out at the house.

Coming home
We stole Katelynn and flew home last night. Again we had a bumpy landing at Salt Lake City. I just don’t get it! We got home around 9:30pm and that was about it.

Minneapolis Marathon Relay

Monday, June 1, 2015

4 friends, 26.2 miles
Bright and early Sunday morning Eric, DJ, Brenda and I started our Minneapolis Marathon Relay. The start time was 6:30 so we loaded up the car with some food and water and made our way to the start of the race. We dropped Eric off for his first leg of just about 8 miles. The rest of us went to Caribou Coffee for some energy (as in oatmeal, coffee and hot chocolate). We quickly made it over to the first relay exchange point to meet Eric. It was a brisk day at 45 degrees at start time but the sun was shining so it was glorious! We saw the lead runner sprint past and about 45 minutes later Eric arrived. He did really well with an average pace of 10:43. He ran faster each mile he ran. That is amazing! He handed off the chip to DJ. DJ ran the second leg of approximately 5 miles. We rushed over to the second exchange point. There wasn’t really a good place to park so Eric dropped me off and walked down (a big hill) to the exchange area.  I’m not kidding when the first words out of my mouth when I saw the hill I need to climb was F&%K ME!

I’m only ¼ crazy.
DJ came down the hill and we exchange the chip and I started up my climb. The hill was right away, there was no warm up. It was about half a mile or so and then we turned and went up another hill. Before the first mile marker my Achilles was mad at me. I was in some pain. But I carried on. During my second mile was a nice downhill to West River Road. On the bridge across the Mississippi River I meet a member of the 50 states club. He has run a marathon in all 50 states and was on his second go around. He only has 18 to go to be a two timer!  Amazing. So I ran past him on my way down the hill. Most of my leg was part of the out and back of the course so I got to see the lead run pass me…in a flash and for my entire run I had faster people running towards me. It was kind of cool…to take my mind off of my aching foot, I took note of which runners on the return looked great and which ones were struggling. In my own twisted world that was fun. Some of the runners were intense. Others were happy go lucky, giving high 5s to us slow runners and giving us encouragement. Those people were awesome!

Along the way I ran with a woman from Iowa. She is doing the 2,015 miles in 2015 like me and was wearing the shirt. We ran together and talked for about a mile and half but I stopped for some water and she kept going. Another person came up and we talked for a bit but she stopped to walk and I kept going. Later on I took a picture of her at Mile 18. She was having troubles taking a selfie so I helped. The water stops for this race were prefect for me. Right when I needed them. I took some Tootsie Rolls with me because I knew this was a longer race. It was nice to suck on them for a while. I got the 17.8 water stop and DJ, Eric and Brenda were there to cheer me on. This was the relay exchange point for me but I had to run to the turnaround first. The turnaround was about a mile down the road. I will say that last 2 miles was horrible. Fortunately I knew about the turnaround. Others in my leg did not and they really suffered when they realized they had 2 more miles to go. Seeing the relay exchange point but having to run past is very deflating. But I persevered, it helped that my Achilles was not hurting as much anymore. Before long I was in the relay exchange area and I was done.  7.12 miles in 1:30.05. My pace was slow but I was happy with it.

I was starving at this point. We knew it would be an hour and a half before Brenda would cross the finish. The first stop we made was to Burger King for a Barq’s Root beer. It was so delicious. It made me very happy. We got the finish line and watched everybody finishing. Some still looked great, others not so much. I really hope if I ever run a marathon I look great when I finish.  

Our overall time was 5:30 something. I’m not sure exactly what it was because our time doesn’t show up in results.

Pictures, Splits, Maps
I'm not sure where I dropped 99 feet in the first mile...There was no downhill!


May 2015 Recap

Runs: 11
Miles: 42.5
Races: 3 (Lake Minnetonka ½ Relay (5.7 miles) - 1:04.23; Valleyfair’s Run and Ride 10K- 1:17.29; Minneapolis Marathon Relay (7.15 miles) - 1:30.05)
Outdoors: 11
Indoors: 0
Longest: 7.15 miles
Average Pace: 12:20

May started out promising. We started the month out with a 3 mile run after work and before a Twins game. A couple days later we completed the Lake Minnetonka Half Relay and my time wasn’t too bad. But then I got slow, really slow. I’m not sure if it is because of the weight gain…I haven’t been so good in the food department and gained some weight. Maybe the humidity?  I also had another bout of bronchitis type symptoms again for the Valleyfair 10K. And I ran a lot of longer runs which for me means slower times. May’s weather was awesome so that isn’t an excuse.

I had three races this month. Like I mentioned above we had the Lake Minnetonka ½ Relay where I ran 5.7 miles brutal, humid, hilly miles in just over an hour. It was a tough race. The humidity about killed me. The next race was Valleyfair’s Run and Ride 10K. It poured almost the entire race and it was small so we were alone for a lot of it. I also was suffering from breathing problems  (ie. Bronchitis). Even though my time was slow, I was pleased with it considering all the stuff I was fighting against! The last race was the last day of the month, the Minneapolis Marathon Relay. I ran leg 3 which was the 2nd longest of the 4 legs and the start was up a hill. Not my favorite! The weather was perfect for this race. The temps were in the 50s and the sun was shining and a little breeze. I wish my time was better but I’m still happy with the time.  

June will be another low mileage month I fear. I just signed us up for a 5K while we are in Oregon (another state off my list!) and a 10K in London…a trail run so that will be slow. We will be on a lot of vacation so I’ll be walking a bunch of miles but not really running.

Trophies for May
La Fiesta is for running on Cinco de Mayo. I'm not sure what Arctic is.