Running continues to be my primary focus outside of work. Okay, I admit it – on most days I could leave out the “outside of work” qualifier. My long runs continue to approach marathon length. I recall how in 2019 I thought “maybe I’ll get to the point where I just run a half marathon equivalent (13.1 miles) twice a week and that will be my training schedule.” Now I’m back to the point where I’m doing 30-40+ miles a week as my prep for the Vermont 50 is peaking. It feels great. I love the continued training, challenge, and improvement.
I have owned an Apple Watch since Series 2. I also had a Series 4 with cellular, and now own a Series 6, also with cellular. I bought the Apple Watch because it was rated as being the most accurate general purpose, wrist-based fitness tracker. There are certainly other options, and better ones just for running, but I went with Apple because I am fairly comfy in their ecosystem.
I’ve known for some time that wrist-based heart rate monitors (HRM) are inaccurate. My Apple Watch will show me at 180 bpm when I am working moderately/hard. My maximum heart rate is around 173 bpm, so, no. Just no.
As of watchOS 7, it’s like the Watch does not even try anymore. I will start my run and it’s a good half mile before it even can show a reading. When it finally does, it is wildly inaccurate. At a friend’s suggestion, I bought a Wahoo TICKR FIT a couple years ago. I wear it on my upper arm, and it gets within 1-2 bpm of what a chest strap Wahoo TICKR X gives. This is good enough for my purposes. For comparison, when the Apple Watch says I’m at 180 bpm, the Wahoo TICKRs will show me being somewhere in the 150s.
As of watchOS 8.4, things got worse. The Bluetooth connection between the Watch and three different HRMs (Wahoo TICKR Fit, Wahoo TICKR X, and Polar H10) all lose their connection to the watch within seconds of starting a workout. They periodically reconnect, but then continue to lose the connection. The end result is periods of accurate readings along with equal periods of inaccurate readings. The result is the same – useless, garbage data. On the Apple Watches, I test by pairing the HRM and using the Workout app. On my iPhone, I pair the devices and tested with Strava or the manufacturer’s apps.
To troubleshoot this, Apple sent me a new Apple Watch. It is running watchOS 7.6.1. While this version is buggy, it works and will reliably hold a connection with any of the three HRMs I have tried. When I paired a couple of the HRMs with a friend’s Apple Watch, running watchOS 8.4.2, she experienced the same, erratic and inaccurate behavior. So at this point, I have tried the combinations shown in the following table.
Wahoo TICKR X
Wahoo TICKR Fit
Series 6, Cellular, watchOS 8.4, 8.4.1, 8.4.2
Series 4, Cellular, watchOS 8.4.2
Series 6, Cellular, watchOS 7.6.1
iPhone 13, iOS 15.3.1
✓ = Works as expected. X = Does not work reliably. – = Untested
I have gone well above and beyond what any customer should have to do to troubleshoot this. I have reported my findings to Apple and Wahoo at my own time and expense. And I have gotten zero positive results.
After weeks of troubleshooting, Apple reported back that the problem is with the third-party manufacturers. Apple will not work with me further to address the issue. Apple said they would work with the manufacturers, but not with me. As I only have the Wahoo devices (returning the Polar, since it behaved the same), that leaves them. Wahoo maintains no one else has reported this behavior, even though I have clearly demonstrated the issue with two of their products on two separate Apple Watches.
So what’s a guy to do? I have clearly demonstrated the problem, but no one wants to own it. At this point, if I want reliable metrics, I need to stay on an old, buggy, insecure version of watchOS. I didn’t even get into the fact that I cannot activate cellular service on the replacement watch running watchOS 7.6.1. I’ll save that for another post.
UPDATE: As of watchOS 8.5 (2022-03-14) everything seems to be working again normally.
UPDATE: Nope, nope. As of 2022-03-17 it happened again.
I did it. Four hours and 38 minutes of nearly non-stop plodding along at an average 10:37/mile pace. My main goal was to finish in 4.5 hours. My secondary goal was to finish. I finished. 690 people finished the marathon. I was 575. So hey! I was in the top 83rd percentile!
From 2017 to early 2021, my go to running shoes were the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 (I forget if they were version 9 or 10), and a pair of the New Balance Summit Unknown for trail running. In 2020 I went on a bit of a shopping spree and was trying all sorts of New Balance shoes, as I liked the wide toe box that didn’t mash my feet. I had an old pair of the Fresh Foam 960s, and bought a pair of the Fresh Foam 980s, as well as the Fresh Foam More. I liked my shows like I like my cappuccino – fresh and foamy.
It’s been a while since I threw my hat over the fence, so here we go! I just registered for the 33rd annual Baystate Marathon. 26.2 miles of pure fun in the tradition of my Spartan ancestors*. I started running regularly in 2017, and embraced it in 2018. In March 2020 I ran 13.1 miles for the first time. I did 13.25 three weeks ago, then 14 last weekend. Sunday my running buddy/accountability partner and I will do 15.5, etc., as we build up to the event on October 17. The clock is ticking!
I have no goal other than to finish. I think that’s sufficient for now.
* No, I don’t really know if I had any Spartan ancestors, but my dad’s from Athens, so that’s close, right?