A simple solution with quite some prefix first

I got an Apple Watch from my wife and daughters for my birthday. Whoop!

I had actually been looking (just window shopping) at running watches recently and had dismissed the Apple watch as a possibility. I’d kind of dismissed all watches as a possibility actually: I really didn’t need a watch as using my phone was fine. On that note, some time ago I planned to write a post about “running with technology vs without”… I guess that decision was made not long after as the Nike Running Club app became too useful (training plans and being able to keep track of distance run on shoes) and now Strava similarly (It’s kind of less good, buggy and great all the same).

At my kind of price point I was thinking of one of these two:

  • Garmin Forerunner 45
    • Pros
      • Looks good
      • 13 hours battery on GPS, 7 days as a watch
      • Light weight
      • Similar size to Apple watch
    • Cons
      • No barometer
      • Smaller screen than Apple watch despite similar overall size
  • Coros pace
    • Pros
      • Ridiculously good battery life: 25 hours GPS, 30 days as a watch
      • All the technology. They actually make watches with more stuff - I can’t see the need myself
    • Cons
      • Looks massive, but maybe that’s just me. I doubt I’d wear it everyday as a watch
  • Comparing to the Apple watch:
    • Pros
      • Unlocking your computer. Until work stop me unlocking my work computer with my watch this is a godsend. Funny though, I could auto-lock and unlock my 12” powerbook back in 2003 with my T68. Only took Apple an entire decade to catch up
      • Activity. Yet to decide if it’s gimicky. I mean I was active before… and didn’t care if I’d stood up every hour or had an entirely inactive day after a big run. But it’s pretty interesting in the meantime
      • The Strava app. It’s a little buggy, but also works reliably (if that makes any sense)
      • Pagerduty… for occasional acking
      • Wake screen on wrist raise. When running in the dark, etc, super useful
      • Barometer. Although the Strava app doesn’t use it!
      • Super light weight
      • Great display
      • Looks good. Still looks futuristic in my book
      • Audio feedback / notifications… it’s not clear to me, but I don’t think the Garmin or Coros can speak the pace and distance, etc like the Strava app can on the Apple watch. And actually this is probably more important than the display when running because I struggle to hold my wrist still to read the display anyway
    • Cons
      • Battery life. More below

From a running point of view it’s just the battery life that is a negative, but that’s only when comparing to other sport watches. For me, practically, there is plenty of battery life: From fully charged I got up at 6am (ugh… on a weekend as well) and went for a 2.5 hour run, then just used the watch for “stuff” for the rest of the day and it still had 12% remaining at 3am the following day; Unsurprisingly I didn’t then get up early that morning to go for a run.

I might dream of one day doing an ultra, but I’ve only run three marathons in past two years and the Apple watch (especially if I disable the heart monitor) is going to be good enough for them even if I’m slow. Weekend to weekend a 30k 3 hour run would still be an occasional long run for me and the watch can handle that and the rest of the day no problem; I don’t wear a watch to bed so charging every night or every week is no real difference.

Maybe in a few years I’ll need a watch that can handle 10 or so hours of gps running, but also… perhaps not.

I’m not counting Siri as a pro as I’m not into it at all. Just too old for it I guess. I’m not overly into the smart features of a smart watch. I mostly do want it for running. I have turned off most notifications, removed what other apps I can, etc; However, one thing that I thought would be handy would be seeing my Teuxdeuxs, just as a little reminder (without using Reminders… I’m Team Teuxdeux) so I came up with a very simple solution taking advantage of Haskerdeux and Remind again. I have this in my remind file:

REM AT 07:00 RUN export EMAIL="fromme@mydomain.com"; haskerdeux today todos | mutt -s "Teuxdeuxs" myaddress@icloud.com

That sends me my todos to my watch each morning. You can actually get an email of Teuxdeuxs via Teuxdeux itself, but for the email address I use I don’t have IMAP set up and nor do I want to (mutt straight into a maildir is the best email experience). I had to actually go and create an iCloud email account for this. My Apple ID dates back to the .Mac days and although that address is still valid as an ID it isn’t as an email address. I guess alternatively I could have figured out forwarding an email to the iCloud one via Postfix, but this remind and Haskerdeux solution works great.

[EDIT: 2020-02-13] Some updates:

  • I have pretty much decided the Activity stuff is a gimmick. How do you decide what to set for Move calories? And… I’m going to do what I’m going to do anyway. I kind of liked the idea of being reminded to stand, but then sometimes if I’m in the flow it’s just another nag. So I’ve given up on all this. Maybe it’s good for those trying to get fit, etc. Shame, because I actually really liked the Activity Analogue watch face (the one with the subdials) and this has now sent me on a wasteful journey of trying to find another watch face I’m happy with.
  • I’ve discovered my battery life is/was so good because Strava was not actually reading my heart rate in the background. I had disabled background app refresh for Heart Rate which seemed to do that. Strava only recorded a heart rate when I looked at the watch… interesting. Since then I’ve struggled to re-enable proper heart rate tracking in the background for Strava. And I may just get to the point where I give up on heart rate stuff altogether because I don’t really care. I’m running for fun. I am never going to use the heart rate stuff to “train”.

[EDIT: 2020-03-04] Sadly it seems the heartrate monitoring flakiness is a known issue with this model. I.e. it’s great at monitoring my heart rate if I’m doing nothing or walking… as soon as I run and record a workout it’s like it “freezes” at reading the heartrate only recording it a couple of times, etc. I’ve managed to get one workout to record properly so far. At first I thought it was Strava, but the same with the Apple Workout app so I’ve disabled heart rate monitoring; The only time i might be interested would be during running - I don’t care otherwise.

[EDIT: 2020-06-22] I ended up subscribing to Strava and so then decided to have another go with heartrate data on the Apple Watch since Strava can do useful stuff with it. Trying the approach suggested here about opening up the heartrate monitor before running. Limited success so far. Such a shame it doesn’t work as intended.