Mophie Powerstation Pro Charger vs. MyCharge All Terrain Charger

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the United States. For many of us that means being outdoors hiking, camping, going to the beach, lake or river. Of course, we want to bring our smartphones and tablets along to capture all of the fun and memories. We have protected our electronics against the elements with our favorite Otterbox or Lifeproof cases. However, most have not thought about having a rugged portable charger for those quick charge situations.

 

Mophie Powerstation Pro Charger MSRP $99.95

The Mophie Powerstation Pro has an aluminum exterior with a rubberized frame to protect against impact, water, and dust with an IP rating of IP-65. The 6000 mAh internal battery at 2.1 amps provides two complete charges to an iPhone 6 Plus or provide a charge to a tablet. The Powerstation Pro weighs in just short of 13 ounces. The micro USB used to charge the Powerstation Pro and the full sized USB are protected by a rubber seal that can be difficult to open. However, this is needed to keep the seal intact.

Pros:

Large battery capacity perfect for charging multiple devices or 1 device multiple times. The Powerstation Pro is perfect for a weekend hiking or camping trip where you will not be able to find an electrical outlet for a day or two.

Cons:

The Powerstation Pro cannot withstand being submerged in water. Activities like kayaking or other watersports that have the possibility of submerging the battery pack in water are not advised. The rubber seals used to access the USB connectors are difficult to open.

 

MyCharge All Terrain Portable Charger MSRP $39.99

The MyCharge All Terrain Portable charger has a ruggedized rubber exterior with an IP rating of IP-68. The 3000 mAh internal battery at 2.1 amps provides one complete charge of an iPhone 6 Plus and weighs in at 3.5 ounces. The micro USB used to charge the battery pack and full sized USB are protected by a single flip-top rubber seal that opens easily.

Pros:

The IP-68 rating makes the MyCharge All Terrain charger a perfect choice for situations where water submersion is likely. It is light-weight and can easily fit in your pocket.

Cons:

The My Charge All Terrain only provides a single full charge to a smartphone and will not provide a full charge to a tablet.

Bottom line:

Both Chargers are great choices depending on what you plan to do. The Mophie Powerstation Pro is great for charging multiple devices or the same device a couple of times. The MyCharge All Terrain is perfect for those day trips and situations where the battery pack could be submerged in water. Either way you cannot go wrong.

What is IPX or IP Rating?!

Recently I was at a technology press event in San Francisco filled with consumer electronics, speakers, headphones, activity monitors, smart watches and so forth. I was interested in a few products a particular company had displayed and asked the representative if they knew what the IPX rating was on the product. They responded they did not know what IPX rating was. The comment is not an uncommon one. After all the acronym “IP” could stand for Intellectual Property or Internet Protocol. The average consumer probably does not know what IPX is, or what it stands for, but they should. The primary reason you should know what IPX ratings are is because terms like “Water-Resistant” and “Waterproof” are marketing terms that do not have any standards.

IP is an acronym, and depending on whom you ask it can stand for either International Protection Rating, Immersion Protection or Ingress Protection. These standards defined in the international standard IEC 60529 classifies the degree of protection a product has over solids and liquids. For example, a cell phone case could have an IP rating of IP68. The first number 6 refers to the solid protection, in this particular case, level 6 which is dust tight. The second digit is the products protection rating from liquids. In this example, level 8 means it can be the product can be continuously immersed in water beyond one meter.
In some cases, manufacturers will use an X instead of a number such as IPX9. Consumers may assume that the X mean that the product is not protected. In fact that is not the case, it simply means the product tested for liquids and not solids because the liquid test offers a higher level of protection.

If you are interested in the complete IP codes, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code

Garmin Goes Strapless!

Forerunner225
Garmin Forerunner225

Garmin has finally given users something they have been asking for heart rate without using a heart rate strap. On Tuesday, Garmin introduced the Garmin Forerunner 225 with an optical heart-rate sensor like that used by FitBit Charge HR, Microsoft Health Band, and the Apple Watch. The Forerunner 225 can measure pace, distance and heart rate while running, along with tracking steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and your sleep at night.

The Forerunner 225 will be available for $300 in the US in second quarter of this year.

Taste Test: Flatout Light Italian Herb Flatbread

FlatBread Italian HerbThere has been a lot of flatbreads hitting the supermarket shelves recently. Styles and flavors have varied from Pita pockets to Naan and wraps to bread thins. I started to taste test over 100 different flatbreads as part of a round up to see which ones tasted the best. In the Flatbread category, I found the Flatout Flatbreads to have the best flavor and versatility. The Light Italian Herb flatbread with only 90 Calories was moist, tasted fresh and is made with 100% whole wheat. They have been certified Kosher. In my tests, I baked it as a pizza, used it in a buffalo chicken wrap and in a Tuna melt. Available at most major supermarkets. http://www.flatoutbread.com

Top 10 Reasons to run the Rock n Roll Portland Half Marathon

BottleOpener-Vid210. Extra Bling: It’s part of the Cascadia Limited Edition Medal Series. Complete the 8K, 10K, half or full marathon distance at the following three events in 2015: Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland, Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle and Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver and it’s all yours.

Rock n Roll Marathon Series Cascadia Limited Edition Cascadia Medal9. A new course. Rock n Roll Marathon Series delivers a new course this year that promises to maximize scenery and minimizing congestion and traffic issues.

8. Did someone say doughnuts? Voodoo Donuts has become synonymous with Portland. However, if you are looking for some amazing donuts and pastries that are true local favorites without the insane line check out Helen Bernhard Bakery, Coco Donuts, or Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream.

7. A Chinese Connection: The Lan Su Chinese Garden, in the middle of downtown Portland, shows its connection to its sister city in China. Portland’s official sister city in China is a city named Suzhou, near Shanghai. In 1999, 65 workmen came to Portland to build a 40,000-sq.-ft. Suzhou-style garden. They imported huge pieces of wood and enormous rocks from the homeland to make sure it turned out as authentic as their homeland. The garden is a tranquil break in the middle of the city. To complete the visit, there’s a teahouse where you can savor some traditional tea.

6. Natural Beauty: On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, the 11,249-foot (3429m) volcano is approximately 50 miles (80km) east of the city. The snow-capped summit is crystal clear and will leave you in awe. Curious why Portland is nicknamed “The City of Roses”? Visit the International Rose Test Garden to get your answer.

5. Food Carts. Savor some of Portland’s most inventive chefs clustered in pods in downtown. Portland is second to none when it comes to food carts. Ranging from old vacation trailers to sheds where you’d store your lawnmower there is something for everyone. A few favorites: the garlicky porchetta sandwiches at Lardo, Belgian fries at Potato Champion, and Mexican at La Jarochita.

4. Liquid Bread. AKA BEER! There are close to 60 local craft breweries in the Portland area. Be sure to try Amnesia Brewery, The Commons Brewery, Cascade Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery, or Rogue Ales.

3.  Post-race headliner: Portugal. The Man. The Portland band will perform its chart topping hit “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.”

2. Multi-tasker Medals: Your half marathon or 10k medal doubles as a bottle opener just in case you need to open a Rogue Ale. (see above)

1. Shopping Spree. Oregon has no general sales tax, you may want to bring an extra suitcase or buy one in Portland.

Top 10 Reasons to run the Country Music Marathon

SouthernCharm_800x800

10.  It is part of the Southern Charm series from the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. In order to receive the extra medal, you must complete three out of four Rock n Roll Southern USA events (New Orleans, Raleigh, Nashville, and/or Savannah) in 2015.

9. Live music on Broadway. Regardless of the time of day you can find live music playing in one of the bars on Broadway. Be sure to check out Legends corner and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge are a steps away from the Ryman Auditorium.

8. A Healthy habit: Forget those Netflix marathons on the couch. Running/walking a marathon or half marathon will put you in a great mood, keep you healthy, and help you earn those calories after the run.

7.  The Music on the course: The Country Music Marathon is the original half marathon and full marathon dedicated to country music since its inaugural running in 2000.

6. Celebrity sightings: The Country Music Marathon has had its fair share of celebrities including New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Sheryl Crow, members of the country music band Diamond Rio, Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams and GAC host Suzanne Alexander.

5. The post-race food and drink. Nashville will not disappoint you when it comes to letting your inner-foodie come out. You can find Nashville’s authentic flavors in many areas of town such as Downtown, East Nashville, and Germantown, The Gulch, Midtown and 12South. Each neighborhood has its own personality but somehow is still down-home Nashville. Some favorites include Pancake Pantry, Mike’s Ice Cream, Hattie B’s, Holland House and the iconic Loveless Café.

4.  The support: The South is known for its southern hospitality and the people of Nashville deliver some of the best crowd support anywhere in the world, making sure you get to the finish.

3. The city of Nashville provides a beautiful backdrop for this race. The course runs through downtown Nashville, along the riverfront and the surrounding neighborhoods providing runners with amazing views and some challenging hills.

2. Run for something greater than yourself. Become a St. Jude Hero. These amazing runners and walkers do more with their race by raising funds for the patients and families of St. Jude. They help St. Jude make sure that no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing and food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. (http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?pg=entry&fr_id=23820 )

1. The headliner Martina McBride. She has received numerous major music awards, including most wins (tied with Reba McEntire and Miranda Lambert) for the Country Music Association Award (CMA) for Female Vocalist of the Year, with her fourth win in 2004. She holds the record in that category for most consecutive nominations. She has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards with hits like Independence Day, I love you, Concrete Angel and I’m gonna love you through it. This concert will rock!

Running Thoughts….

Running thoughts…

Over the past few months I have had the honor of coaching, pacing and witnessing some incredible acts by pretty amazing athletes and friends all over the country. Each one of them taught me how to be a better coach, mentor, friend and person while participating in half marathons, marathons and triathlons. In every instance, I gathered valuable insights regardless of their ability, some were age-group and overall podium contenders, some middle of the pack runners and some were back of the packers.  After witnessing these events, I reflected on several aspects of racing, running, and endurance sports. It made me realize that there are certain rules and tricks that are critical to success on race day. At times these helpful nuggets of information are either rarely spoken about or forgotten about in the excitement of the event. In either case, they deserve to be reiterated. 

There are several books written about racing successfully and there is no way to cover all of them in one blog post or even one hundred blog posts. In fact, there are various definitions of what successful racing means. Each one of these rules and definitions deserves its own book and not a paragraph or two. However, I do want to break down a few things that will help you achieve your goals or at least give you the tools to take a good honest look at them and adjust them as needed. Over the next couple of blog posts, I will cover some of the most important rules and tricks to help you attain a new level of success in your racing and training.  First up:

The PR conundrum

PRs. Ask most athletes what those two little letters mean and they will not only tell you that it stands for “Personal Record.” They will more than likely go on to tell you what their PRs are in their chosen event. Most will also go into great detail on how, where, and when they achieved it. Typically this is where all of the non-runners’ eyes will glaze over and they wish they had never asked the question. We wear these statistics like badges of honor. Memorizing them like they were on the back of baseball cards or fantasy football points. The problem with PRs is that we think about them too much before and during a race. Let me explain why this is a problem, and how it can derail your success on race day.

I had the pleasure of spending time with some world-class athletes over the years including American Record Holder Josh Cox, 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze medalist Deena Kastor and 2004 Olympic Marathon Silver medalist Meb Keflezighi.  All of them have given me a similar piece of advice when it comes to PRs and racing. Essentially it boils down to this: They don’t think about time when they race. They race based on effort and how they feel on that particular day at that particular time. Yes, you have read that correctly! World-class runners do not go out on race day and say “I want to run a (fill in the blank time) for (fill in the blank event). Instead, they pay close attention to how they feel before the race and more importantly during the race. They are not tied to mile splits and hitting them mile after mile.  Instead, they are paying attention to the course, their effort, staying within themselves, not going out too fast, nutrition, and so on. They allow themselves to have variations in their mile splits because they would rather back off their pace a little to give themselves the opportunity to stay within themselves. This allows them to save some energy for the later miles of the race instead of going out so hard that they do not have anything left and end up walking. Being in tune to what your body is telling you throughout the entire race is key if you want to succeed.

Racing and  attaining PRs are about smart energy management. Think of it as a tank of gas in your car. At the start of the race you have a full tank, provided that you rested and had the proper nutrition. Just like in your car, if you floor the gas pedal you burn through your tank very quickly while stressing your engine. This will make you run out of gas before you get to the finish line.  However, if you take it easy and slowly accelerate you will have a much better chance of an enjoyable race and finishing strong.

Take some time to consider some of these things the next time you are racing. Ask yourself, are these ideal conditions for success? What is the weather like? Is it too hot, too humid, too cold, and so forth? Did you sleep enough? Did you have a good breakfast? Is my PR goal time realistic? Have you studied the course?   Remember, sometimes success is defined by executing your perfect race plan regardless of whether or not it a PR was achieved. Sometimes having a smile at the end and having fun on the course or simply finishing the race is enough to say it was a successful day.

Fitbit Flex vs. Jawbone Up Activity Band Showdown

Lately, I have heard various friends say “I have to get my 10,000 steps in.” It has become sort of a game for many to achieve this daily goal in an attempt to stay active, lose or maintain weight, and stay healthy. The fitness wearable-device market has evolved over the last few years. Just a few years ago, wearable fitness devices like the BodyBug would cost upwards of $300. The latest batch of wearables includes the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up, which cost $129 and $99 respectively.  But, which one is better? The answer is, it depends on your particular situation.

The Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP both have 3 axis accelerometers that measure steps, sleep, calories and food. They both are water resistant. You can shower with either unit, but swimming or other water activities are not recommended. They both have mobile apps for iPhone and Android. However, they have various distinguishing features and, depending on what type of user you are, these differences can make you fall in love with your activity band or think it’s too much of a hassle.  

Style and Comfort

The Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone Up are both fairly comfortable to wear. Similar to a wrist watch, after a little while you forget you are wearing it. However, both have design weaknesses.  The Jawbone Up coil design makes it easy to take on and off your wrist, but it does tend to snag or get caught on long sleeves. At night, it can get caught on pillows and sheets. In comparison, the Fitbit Flex can be a little tough to get on, but doesn’t get caught on anything.  Both the Fitbit flex and the Jawbone Up come in fashionable colors.  However, only the Jawbone Up allows you to change the color of the band (each color sold separately) to match your mood or what you are wearing.   

Sleep Tracking

Unfortunately, neither device automatically detects or switches directly to sleep tracking mode without user intervention. However, the Jawbone Up’s one touch button lets you go into sleep tracking mode much easier than the Fitbit Flex. In order to get the Fitbit Flex to go into Sleep mode, you must continually tap the device for a few seconds. This process takes a little getting used to and isn’t that user friendly.  The Fitbit Flex allows you to edit your sleep time, but it isn’t as accurate. The Jawbone Up also goes into its awake activity mode automatically, whereas the Fitbit Flex needs user prompting. 

Applications

Both devices have free iPhone and Android Apps available, and both have the ability to connect with friends that use either a Fitbit device or the Jawbone Up. However, only the Fitbit Flex has a web interface that you can access on any computer connected to the Internet.  The Jawbone Up does have superior iPhone and Android based apps, with better graphics and interactive charts. Plus, it is a bit more user friendly than the Fitbit Flex. You can purchase a one year premium service from Fitbit that gives you in-depth analysis of your data and other features for additional $49.99 per year.  

Syncing

The Fitbit Flex is the clear front runner with the use of low power Bluetooth wireless real-time syncing. In order to use this feature, users must have an iPhone 4s or later, or a Samsung Galaxy 3S or later. A complete list of compatible phones can be found on the Fitbit website. If the user has another phone, the Fitbit Flex will sync wirelessly through the use of a wireless USB dongle and an Internet connected computer. The Jawbone Up must be connected to the phone using the phone’s 3.5 mm audio jack in order to sync. The 3.5 mm end of the Jawbone Up is protected by a cover but this cover can come loose and eventually could be lost.  

Charging and Battery life

Both devices have internal rechargeable batteries. Each one must be recharged using their proprietary USB chargers. Both recommend that the user charge the device when they are not going to be active, such as when the user is sitting at work or watching a movie. A full charge can be accomplished in a couple of hours. The average battery life for the Jawbone Up was just short of 10 days and the Fitbit Flex lasting just shy of 5 days before needing to be recharged. 

Accuracy

Neither the Jawbone Up nor the Fitbit Flex is very accurate when it comes to distance or true amount of steps. Throughout my testing, I saw between an 8 to 15 percent differences in accuracy. In my testing, I used a hip based pedometer and in some cases, a Garmin 910XT with a foot pod over the course of several days to see how accurate each device was. The tests included walking up flights of stairs, walking vs. running around a quarter mile track, jogging in place, running on a treadmill and walking around a grocery store with a shopping cart. There were mass fluctuations in both steps and distance between the two devices, and when compared to the pedometer or the Garmin.  Sometimes the devices were overly generous on steps, and in other cases they did not record steps. During the shopping cart test, my hands remained on a shopping cart throughout most of the grocery store. I made sure to sync each device just prior to walking into the store and again while exiting. In this particular test, each device registered less than one hundred steps while the pedometer registered over one thousand. This is due to the fact that there was not enough movement in my arms, therefore the devices did not register the step.  Both devices will allow you to calibrate your steps to hone in on your distance but again depending on how you use the device it may or may not count your steps.

Bottom Line

Both activity monitors provide an excellent snap shot of your daily activity level, the quality of your sleep and eating habits. However, no activity monitor will work for you unless you actually get up off the couch and move! Neither is made to replace an activity specific device like a Garmin or sports watch. Both have sharing capabilities that allow you to support, compete and motivate your friends. So perhaps the best question to ask is which device do your friends currently own?

 

 

Why blog?

I admit I have resisted blogging for a decade. Friends and colleagues have suggested I blog about an array of completely different topics that I cover but I resisted because I felt that I could never specialize in just one area and too many things would end up on the editing room floor so to speak.  The other reason I had no interest in blogging is because it sounded too much like work and I already have way too much on my plate.  I am a professional journalist and author who covers a vast array of topics including consumer technology, wine, food, travel and other topics for national publications, TV, and radio. Sometimes these stories, articles, recipes, or reviews appear under my own name and sometimes they do not. I spend a fair amount of time ghost writing for other personalities or companies.

So why am I willing to turn over a new leaf and start this blog? My primary reason for starting this blog is to share my thoughts and passions with whomever is interested in learning more about me or a particular topic. I have met so many incredible people over the years. Each one of those people have touched my life, and inspired in some way. In getting to know some of those people, I realized each individual has various facets to their lives that we don’t see or learn about because it doesn’t come up in every day conversation. In many cases, it is surprising to learn how much we have in common or how interesting the other person is. Have you ever seen someone out of context and it took you a minute or two to recognize them? This has happened to me several times in different situations. In each case, I was happy to see them participating in an activity that I also enjoyed. These types of interactions with others make our connections stronger, enriching both of our lives.

Hopefully you will find something in this blog that will inspire, educate, entertain, and perhaps even challenge you to go out and do whatever it is you are passionate about.

Cheers and thanks for reading.