Rain rain, go away…

And so ends another week where I only managed two runs. My lack of time this week was somewhat exacerbated by the current UK weather situation.

The UK media have been having a (waterlogged) field day recently, because if there’s one thing that the British love talking about more than weather, it’s ironic weather, and we’re currently in the middle of severe rain and flooding. During a declared drought. With hosepipe bans in place. The news reporters are loving it, when they’ve got time to spare from asking awkward questions about Jeremy Hunt, anyway.

This morning, I checked the weather (using the rather swish WeatherSpark) and found that today would be fairly representative of April so far:

Screen Shot 2012 04 29 at 10 12 40

So. I decided to wait until later to get out of the door. In the end I headed out during the promised gap at about 8pm, which — surprise! — materialised exactly as promised.

As I’d been feeling guilty about not getting out for a second mid-week run, I decided to put in some decent distance today, and actually managed a whole 10K, which I was pretty pleased with. 1:14:27 is only five minutes away from my best 10K race time (almost to the second), so I think that was pretty good for running alone on a wet Sunday night…

This week is looking like more of the same, so I may try the same pattern again, fitting in a couple of longer runs rather than three shorter ones. Not too long until the Bristol 10K, so it’s good to be getting some decent distances in!

On A Whim

IMG 6666The television coverage of the London Marathon should have been a great inspiration to go jogging on Sunday. Unfortunately I was watching it from behind a hangover, on a sofa quite a long way from home.

I did, in the end, struggle out for a run on Sunday, but it was just a desultory jog around the local area, more so that I could say I’d been out than for any other purpose.

This evening, feeling a bit guilty, I headed out down the Portway to get in one of my midweek 5Ks, and passed this sign. On a whim, I thought, “well, five miles isn’t that much further than five kilometres…”

So, I ran to Sea Mills station and back. It was a good run. The rain stayed away and I got to jog along the river at twilight, which is always nice.

I also put some music on, instead of the podcasts I’ve generally been listening to while running recently. Back when I started running, I listened to music all the time. Speech Debelle’s first album, Speech Therapy, got me through a lot of my early runs.

Tonight I headed for harder territory and spun up the shiny new Fields of the Nephilim live album, Ceromonies. It was excellent running music. The power of Psychonaut pushed me through an uphill stretch, the (not-usually-to-my-taste) more metallic Shine had me sprinting between lamp posts, and it turns out my standard longer-distance lope is pretty much in time with Trees Come Down

So, a bit of a wobble last week, missing a run and being too hungover for any distance on Sunday, but this week is off to a good start 😀 I’ll try to get out again on Thursday, I reckon.

Work Life Balance

I lost momentum a bit this week. I didn’t get out for two mid-week jogs, mostly because as well as being back in the office 9 to 5, I’m also working hard outside the office, and had a couple of evenings taken up with social stuff, too.

Still, I managed to head out last night, at least, for a simple 5K down the Portway, my default “haven’t time for anything else and want to avoid puddles on the towpath” route. And, with luck — and hopefully not *too* much of a hangover after a friend’s birthday party this afternoon — I’ll get out again tomorrow, so at least I’ll have run twice.

This month is already my best month of the year so far in terms of distance, so I’m heading in the right direction.

Incidentally, the work I’m doing outside the office is at least relevant to running! I’ve been working on the Android version of Get Running, my friend Benjohn’s iPhone app.

So, if you’d like to help us test the Android version of Get Running, and you have an Android phone (or other device) with Android 2.2 or above, you can find a details of the Get Running Android Beta Programme here!

Third Time’s A Charm

I’m managing to keep up the momentum, it seems. Just came back from today’s 7.5K around Leigh Woods. I’m still not back up to the level of fitness that lets me get up that hill in one uninterrupted jog, but it didn’t take long to get my breath back at the picnic table after the steepest section. Another few attempts and I’m sure I’ll be doing it in one again.

And the good news is that this is the third jog this week, so my plan to get back into the habit seems to be working out. Hopefully my return to 9‑to‑5 employment this week won’t hurt that. I used to do the very same job, in the very same office, full time, and still jog three times a week, so at least I know I can do it! I just need to make sure my momentum isn’t derailed by the change in working patterns.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the cold, cloudy/sunny day I was jogging through today, snapped with my phone during my walking warm-up.

Bridge Clouds

Some Run By Night

One of the problems I’ve faced while trying to get back into the habit of running three times a week is a lack of that mental itch that says “you’ve not been running recently, you know.” It hasn’t helped that this is a busy week, as I prepare for a return to an office job on a ten-week contract, starting on Monday.

Today I remembered I should have been for a run while my dinner was cooking. That, plus some heavy rain, and some annoying problems with some Android programming I’ve been doing, meant it was about 10pm by the time I thought, “Oh, yeah. I should have been for a run.”

But what the heck. The rain had lightened up, the Portway has good street lights, and I still had a couple of hours before bedtime. I went anyway, for a quick 5K down the road and back, and it was fine. I even took time to stretch properly at the end.

Hopefully I’ll get out on Sunday to keep up my three-times-a-week momentum, though the weekend’s looking scarily busy so far.

Three Times a Week

So, after the ropey Bath Half, I’m trying to get back to a level of fitness where I won’t embarrass myself at the Bristol 10K. That means getting back out and running three times a week, like I used to.

So far, that seems to be going well. I headed out for 5Ks on Monday and Wednesday, and today I did a nice 8K up Bridge Valley Road and around the Downs.

Hopefully I’ll manage to keep this up, though it might be a little tricky next weekend, as I’m away for at least a day… We’ll see!

Avon

That First Kilometre

My plan to get back to running three times a week, to help me recover some fitness before the Bristol 10K, seems to be starting off okay. I followed up Monday’s run with another run today, so that’s my two weekday runs done. I’ll get something a bit longer in at the weekend.

Today’s run was a bit of a trial at the start. It was just a simple 5K down the Portway. But I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the first kilometre as I set out, mostly because the weather was horrible. Our brief burst of summer-like spring seems to be over, with a typically British cold snap.

It wasn’t snowing in Bristol, but my walking warm-up was done into a freezing cold wind that nearly sapped my strength before I started off. On the plus side, I couldn’t wait to get running, just to warm up…

Before the first kilometre was over, though, I was still freezing. The thought even crossed my mind to stop for shelter for a bit at the tunnel underneath the Suspension Bridge, and then decide whether I just wanted to run back home. Before bits of me started falling off.

I started to warm up eventually, though, and pushed on to the full 5K. The few other soaked and frozen joggers that I met all gave that slightly wry acknowledgement that says, “Oh, so you’re an idiot, too, are you? Well done, idiot.”

And the good news is that it was five whole minutes faster than Monday’s 5K, mostly because of my desire to get warm as quickly as I could by pushing harder than usual at the beginning. So, throwing myself out there into the freezing wind and rain turned out quite well. Even though, during the first kilometre, it seemed like a bloody silly idea…

Review: Jabra Rhythm headset

I’m a 3 customer. In fact, I just used my 3 MiFi dongle to start writing this blog post in the “cloud”, from my comfy spot in Boston Tea Party in Clifton Village. I’ve been using 3 for mobile internet for years, and I find them a lot more reliable than cafe Wi-Fi. And their customer service has been good, too.

So, when 3’s agency got in touch and wondered if I’d like to review anything running-related from the iPhone section of the 3 store, I couldn’t see any reason why not.

I chose this Jabra Rhythm headset. Running is hard on headphones and earbuds. They’re at risk from rain, sweat and repetitive strain on the cable, among other things. I’ve got through several pairs since I started jogging, so it’s always good to try out something new and see if I can put another option on my list.

The Jabras are my preferred type of headphones, noise-isolating earbuds. These also feature an iPhone- and Android-compatible remote control and microphone.

They arrived in a distinctive tube with the earbuds inserted into translucent plastic ears. I put them to one side rather than throwing them away; you never know when you’ll need a pair of translucent plastic ears.

First Impressions

The Jabras look good, and the plastics are a decent quality. The lead is nice and long, with a gold-plated 3.5mm jack. They certainly feel better in the hand than the standard Apple headphones that come with the iPhone, though not as good as my current headphones, the Sennheiser MM70. But given that the Jabras are £25 and the Sennheisers are £50, that’s hardly a surprise.

The soft rubber earbuds come in the standard three sizes. Luckily my ears are apparently average, so I never have to fiddle with the small and large pairs that come with this style of earbud. The Jabras fitted snugly and comfortably.

The microphone and remote control drop from the left-hand earbud, just like my Sennheisers, so even if the earbuds weren’t obviously-shaped, I could still easily tell the left from the right. The supplied clip grips clothes and cable fine.

The gold-plated 3.5mm jack looks nice, emblazoned with the Jabra name, though I’m not convinced that the cable’s strain relief is going to be effective.

One oddity was the adapter that came in the tube. It’s listed on the packaging itself as a “phone adapter”, but it’s not mentioned in the paper instruction sheets. Its plug is identical to the plug that’s already on the end of the cable.

The headphones didn’t need this adapter to work on my iPhone 3GS or my (Android) Samsung Galaxy S Wi-Fi – everything, including the remote control and the microphone, seemed to work just fine without it. Which is a good thing, as stacking the plug and the adapter makes for an ungainly and fragile-looking connection that might easily bend or snap in a pocket.

Sound

Being called “Jabra Rhythm”, I was expecting the Jabras to be a bit bass-heavy. There’s a big market out there for people who live in the bass end of their preferred music’s frequencies, and a lot of headphones are aimed squarely at them.

The Jabras didn’t fail to disappoint on that score, emphasising the bass end far more than my preferred Sennheisers. I won’t knock them for that per se; that’s more a question of taste than quality, and the rest of the sound was well-reproduced, with a detailed top end, to my inexpert ears, at least. I’ve certainly listened to £25 headphones that sounded a lot worse.

Since I’ve given up my commute to work, jogging is one of my chances to catch up on my backlog of spoken word podcasts, too (my long run of the week is often accompanied by Build and Analyse.) The Jabras were good for the spoken word; voices sounded rich and clear.

The noise isolation buds are comfy, and work just as well as the ones on my Sennheisers. They pick up some physical cable noise, but no more than any other similar earbuds I’ve tried.

Remote Control

One big disappointment is the lack of volume control. The remote control is a single button with the play/pause/next track/answer calls/etc. function of the middle button on standard Apple headphones. This single, multifunction button works great on the Jabras, with a nice positive click, but they lack the volume up/down buttons.

This is a real loss for runners, as running is one of those activities where it’s tough to reach the volume control buttons on the music player itself, which is likely in an armband or a tight-fitting shorts pocket, or an audio waist pack, or what-have-you.

Microphone

One vaunted feature of the Jabras – and presumably a reason that a phone company like 3 sells them – is the microphone. This has “wind-noise reduction” technology built in.

There’s a really good way to test a microphone’s wind-noise reduction around here, and that’s to take it for a jog down the open ground of the A4 Portway, by the River Avon. That has the bonus of adding road noise into the mix, too.

So, on my jog last Wednesday, I took along the Apple earbuds that came with my phone, my favoured Sennheisers, and the Jabras. I spun the recordings into an Audioboo so that you could compare all three. Incidentally, if you think you have problems untangling your headphones, try untangling three different pairs that have been stirred in a jogger’s pocket for ten minutes. Not fun.

(If you want to skip the intro, the recordings of the three headphones start at 50 seconds in:)

The crunching sound from the Apple headphones is them bashing around, unsecured by a clip. They don’t sound bad, but they don’t sound good.

The Sennheisers did better, with less rubbing noise, and the voice punching through more clearly through the background.

The Jabras, however, were pretty bad. Muffled, with a lot of obvious wind noise. My voice didn’t come through anything like as crisply as it did with either the Apple earbuds or the Sennheisers.

That’s a real shame, especially when the microphone is a important selling feature of the phone (“For Music and Calls”, it says on the tube.)

This isn’t a big loss for me, mind you. I’m never going to be that guy jogging along in the Apple adverts, adding “to-do” items to his task-list with Siri as he goes. I’m self-conscious about talking to myself in public, plus I don’t normally have enough breath or concentration to jog and talk at the same time.

But if you bought the Jabra Rhythms to take advantage of their call quality, I think you’d be pretty disappointed.

Verdict

Pros:

  • Good quality materials for the money.
  • Good sound reproduction, though a little bassy for my taste.
  • Generous cord length.

Cons:

  • No volume controls.
  • Poor microphone.
  • Headphone adapter”, whatever it’s for. If you need to use it, you won’t like it. And it could do with a mention in the instructions.

I’d have liked these headphones much more if they’d spent the money sucked up by the wind-noise reduction technology on fitting them with volume buttons instead. At £25 they’d have been a tempting option compared to spending twice as much on another pair of Sennheisers when my current set die. But without the volume controls, they’re nothing like as jogger-friendly.

That said, the Jabra Rhythm headphones aren’t bad. They seem well put-together, and they sound fine, especially for speech and music from the dancier end of the spectrum. But the microphone is poor, so don’t buy them if you want to make calls from them, especially not while jogging down the Portway in Bristol.


Full dis­clos­ure: I reviewed the Jabra Rhythm headset after being sent it, for free, by 3’s media agency. No conditions were attached apart from a link to the 3 store appearing in the review. 3 didn’t pay me to say nice things about them in passing, either 🙂