As promised last year, I’ve started to do some races with the Polar Vantage. This post covers some gadget-based results and anecdotes of recent RACE escapades.
I “used” the Vantage V Titan for the River Arun 3.8k swim and also for the Dartmoor Classic 100 mile ride. Clearly, I didn’t look at the watch too much whilst swimming and I favoured looking at the Wahoo Elemnt on the ride just because a bike computer format is better for…err…biking. That’s a problem with reviewers who use lots of watches; they tend NOT to actually use them but just have them on their wrists as dumb data recorders. But you knew that anyway, there’s no pulling the wool of the eyes of you clever lot.
Which brings me nicely onto a recent Half Ironman when I did actually use (ta-da!) the Vantage M ‘properly’. Which means ‘for the run’ as I was still using the Wahoo Elemnt on the bike :-(. But it also means that I wanted the Vantage to be the primary and only data collector of the entire escapade capturing the following: a pretty track of where I’ve been; run power; bike power; run pace; heart rate and a few other less important data niceties that I will never, ever look at.
In terms of saying how good the Vantage was, my criteria would be ACTIONABLE LIVE data and ACCURATELY RECORDED data for my analyses.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s answer those usual pesky questions.
Q: How was the race prep
Awful. I had a fairly serious, burst appendix in April that hospitalised me for 5 days and then just about zero training for a month. My immense thanks to the NHS for not letting me die. Phew.
The doctors (rightly) laughed at me when I told them I had a Half Ironman in two weeks time and, in return, I quietly laughed back when they told me that I should do NOTHING for 6 weeks – just NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! Reality hit home soon enough and that meant my real A race was put to one side for another year and my holiday HIM suddenly got bumped up in priority and taken a bit more seriously.
Q: How did the race go
All things considered, I was pleased with a top 10 finish within the 10 year age bands that applied for this race.
A guy I knew in the age group above me was there too, he used to be one of the short distance ITU age-group world champs and I used to be able to keep up with him over the shorter courses. He beat me by half an hour in the HIM #Gulp. And that somewhat puts my hopes of medal glory for next year into perspective next year when I too move up an age group #MustTryHarder
The sea swim was choppy and challenging. The bike leg, with only a little over 1km vertical climbing, was made potentially tricky by a 20mph wind but it worked out fine on the day even with a disk wheel.
As you know, a HM at the end of all that suddenly becomes much more difficult than it normally is but I was happy enough with my performance there too for once. I still start the run too quickly but STRYD and a dose of commonsense have tempered my enthusiasm over the years as I keep ratching up an increasing number of HIM finishes. The run was windy and it was also hot; on balance I liked the cooling effect of the wind for once.
All I have to do now to appear to do better is: get a year older (easy); get a decent 6-month training block in (should be straightforward), and then bike and run just a little bit faster. I might finally have to listen to my own advice and do more weights. Medals here we come…maybe. Perhaps. If I choose an obscure enough race 😉
Q: What gadgets were in use?
I used my recently purchased Zone3 Vanquish on the swim which I was very happy with. Despite the use of Glide I’ve got a chunk of skin missing from my neck from the wetsuit neckline, that’s probably from needing to do a lot of sighting.
Assioma on the new V4 firmware – Awesome. I’ve never had a problem with them. They just work. I had my specyTT bike, Aerofill hydration and Mavic deep-section wheels with a rear Mavic disk. All good, although the Aerofill would ideally hold more liquid for a HIM.
Wahoo Elemnt – Awesome. I had this on map view for the entire ride with the course pre-loaded. When there are some fast, bendy bits I tend to use the map screen to know what’s coming up. I had 3s power and HR data overlaid above the map…that was all. Why the Wahoo? …A: It just works. Every time.
I used the Polar H10 chest strap which I have set to broadcast ANT+ and dual BLE. The Vantage used its own Precision Prime oHR for the swim and I think the Wahoo probably used ANT+ simultaneously with the BLE on the Vantage on the ride.
STRYD – of course, my regular reader knows that I was bound to mention STRYD at some point. I should have had the new STRYD on but a) it hasn’t yet arrived and b) it probably would have been best not to use it as it was windy and I would not have had a chance to get used to the newly wind-adjusted power outputs. A shame in some respects as it was a perfect day for testing running with power in the wind.
Polar Vantage M – The Vantage M worked well on the run and I didn’t really look at it for the earlier swim and bike. I have been ‘testing’ the latest Vantage firmware for quite a while now whilst running and was reasonably happy that it seems to lock on to the correct instant pace when linked to STRYD. All STRYD calibration factors are stored on the watch and are ultimately derived, at least in part, from GPS. The Vantage M, for me, now seems accurate enough when combined with STRYD.
On the Vantage, I had 4 metrics showing – HR, run duration, instant power and instant pace. There were other screens available to me but I never looked at them other than noting the 1km autolap times when they popped up. The autolap times seemed pretty good at first but dropped slightly as the race progressed. Not sure if that was the watch or me 😉 To be fair to the Vantage+STRYD it did help me temper my pace at times, especially when going up one of the several small inclines. I normally start to cramp up when I push harder up hills when fatigued and thankfully, for once, I managed to avoid the ignominy of cramp this time round and that saved me a few minutes off the final time.
Gadget Fails: The Vantage M missed out the GPS for the SWIM duration between 300m and about 900m. This is very strange behaviour and I’ve had it with other devices that use the new Sony GPS chipset, including Garmin. I’ve not really had that behaviour before these new sony-based watches and I find it hard to believe that both Garmin and Polar (and I think the Suunto too, IIRC) have messed up in precisely the same way when integrating the Sony chip. The Precision Prime HR on the swim also had 3 short dropouts – not great but I can live with that.
The Vantage M was perfectly fine during the race for the provision of LIVE data.
The quality of collected swim data could be improved. I can live with what I got. I’m not sure the Garmin 945 would have been any different. On my River Arun swim both the Vantage V Titan and Garmin 945 equally messed up the recorded GPS data.
On the negative side. Had I stopped for a coffee half-way around the course, the Vantage M would have been totally unable to buy it for me as it doesn’t have a payments system, unlike the Garmin 945. Clearly the Garmin 945 is therefore a better race watch…err…wait a minute. That doesn’t sound right.
I’ve had a few comments asking why I hadn’t used the Polar Vantage for racing this year after saying I would use it in a review last year. I may be wrong but I read the subtext of those comments to be that the Vantage wasn’t good enough as a race watch. Hopefully this post partly dispels such thoughts.
It clearly was fine for my race. Just as would be many other devices. For me, the gadget demands during a race are much more focussed on accurate pacing (power/pace/time/hr) than on other things.
At the moment, I’d say the 935 (three) is the best triahtlon watch for racing HIM or shorter. But if you use lots of external sensor types and you’re not too bothered about a pretty GPS track then many tri watches are up to the job.