Suunto Ambit at TMBT2012 50k Race

Race: The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) at Kundasang, Sabah on 15th September 2012. 50km route. This is meant to be a mini review of how the Ambit performed during the race. I’m not a professional, but aiming for a sub-10 hour race time for my first ultra-marathon. As the Ambit’s battery is rated up to 15 hours for 1s recording time for both GPS and heart rate, I should be within the comfortable limit. I believe that the log file limit is also around 15 hours before it over-rides the earliest recordings. But just in case, I did pack in an external charger which I did not use.

The most tedious thing to do before the race is to figure out what screens that I want to display during the race. You can have up to 8 screens that are fully customized. I believe that anything more than 5 screens is too many to scroll through. What I want to do during the race is to track my average speed for the whole race and between check points, so this would be my main screen. I have other screens to show the altitude profile and heart rate although I barely used it throughout the race. Above most of the screen, I would also have the distance, so that I can guess where the water stations are. As I tried it before the race during my training run in Seoul, I didn’t have any issues. All the information was there when I wanted it. Then again, there’s no way to have the display screen modified during the race, you need a notebook and access to to do all those, so beware, do it before the race... way before the race. That’s an issue when you need it, but plan in advance and you’ll be fine.

I did have some issues with the way the battery indicator was displayed. It went quickly to halfway after an hour or two and then to a quarter mark after 6-7 hours and then remained that way all the way to the 10hr mark. It didn’t feel at all that it was displaying what was really left in the watch. For a while I glanced at the watch quite often to make sure that I was not going to empty the Ambit before the end, and I didn’t feel that it could go beyond 10hrs. In fact, not only did it last throughout the 10hr race, but I still have no idea what the maximum time is for my type of use. Next race, I would pack in external battery chargers if I plan for more than 12 hours of use.

Anyway, good news is that it is possible to recharge the Ambit during the race, but it doesn’t look like the clip on charger connector would work when the watch is on the wrist.

At the end of September, all Ambit users are waiting for a new firmware upgrade that will give us cookie crumbs map of the path that was taken, which would have been that much more useful during the race. I could remember the shape of the route from the map, which was clearly marked, and it would have been better to have an idea of how far I was from each water station and check point.

Anyway, finished the race in 9 hours 45 minutes, quicker than I expected, which was a relief. The Ambit did its job. I don’t think I really used the heart rate data at all during the race, but the post-race data that was on did its job, and I was able to see where I needed more training for next year’s trail race.

Suunto Ambit SW Version: 1.5.10 HW Version: E.1.J.4