The sad demise of our Sole F63

Anyone want a crappy treadmill with a brand new console?

Today’s run (street): 4.4 miles

A treadmill is a substantial thing, a sturdy platform built for running. Treadmills are expensive because they are engineered to hold up over time. A good example of this is our ProForm L15, a modestly priced treadmill that we bought in the mid-1990’s. Although it was used daily, the ProForm was a workhorse that served us well until February 2010. A bad example of this is the Sole F63, that has reached the point where replacing its worn parts will cost 70% of a new unit. And not a moment too soon. From what we were told, these parts are in serious need of replacement.

That was the assessment made by our treadmill repair guy whose opinion we trust. Adding to that, we paid $200 a month ago for a new console (the fourth one since we got the unit) and we needed to pay the tech for his house call to get the bad news. What’s frustrating about our experience with this treadmill is that we’ve done all the right things to ensure a good outcome.

I had such high hopes when we got the F63 four years ago. Our due diligence included much research and a personal recommendation of the brand. My wife made sure the unit was professionally serviced and she was meticulous about following owner maintenance. In the short time that we’ve had it, we’ve experienced a motor failure, serious issues with tread slippage and the aforementioned console problems.

The treadmill still works, but it makes a huge racket due to the degraded rollers and failing frame. It could go tomorrow or in six months. The question is whether we should invest in a better brand of treadmill. The cost could be substantial, but the value of doing that would be that pro grade treadmills often come with long or even lifetime warranties. Between my wife and I, we use our treadmill a lot.

I’m now at the point in my week where I jam all my running mileage into three days. This morning I went out for the first time since I ran 400’s with the Runsketeers on Sunday. The long rest period helped, and I felt great from the start. I wouldn’t call today’s run effortless, but it was certainly a pleasent experience. The temperature hadn’t broken 70° and the sun wasn’t too intense at 7:15 AM. If not for business obligations that required me to cut my run short, I would have gone for six miles.

I’m not sure about this weekend’s running. A trail run would be fun. I’ll see how I feel in the morning. No rain is scheduled for Saturday, so at least I won’t be forced to continue torturing our ailing treadmill.

Running to positive distraction

 

Today’s run (treadmill): 5.1 miles

My hardcore running buddy SIOR was planning a long run today along the Bethpage bike trail. After so many treadmill runs over the past couple of weeks, I really wanted to get out and join her (and possibly the Petite Pacer) for a few miles. Once it became clear that the trail conditions were icy and snowy, I became concerned about slipping. Despite suggestions that included putting Slinkys and Brillo pads on my running shoes, I ended up chickening out.

If Bethpage wasn’t going to be an option, I knew my opportunity for an outside run would be low. I finally accepted my fate and prepared for five miles of fun on the treadmill. And when I say fun, I mean horrible boredom. I managed to find a bunch of distractions before I finally acquiesced to the will of the Sole F63.

As it turned out, my run wasn’t as tedious as I’d feared. Early on, I switched to the uppermost cable channels (Music Choice) that play music without commercials. This was great because I could listen without needing to wear headphones. I also liked that I could switch back and forth between genres. The only negative is that the names of the artists and songs are displayed in very small text and it was hard to read that from across the room.

I maintained a pace that provided a challenging but sustainable perceived effort. I noted that my heart rate’s rose from 73% of max to 88% throughout the span of my run. I’m used to stopping my treadmill runs after 3 to 3.5 miles (due mostly to boredom) so going past 5 today was a testament to good distractions. I don’t think conditions will change enough to get outside on Sunday, so I guess I’ll do this again tomorrow.

The soul of weekend runs and the Sole of weekday workouts

Sole F63 – my frequent morning companion

Today’s run (street): 4.2 miles

It’s more than halfway through the weekend that followed my short week back to work. The real test comes next week with five straight days of waking up at 3:45 AM. Four of those mornings will involve a run that starts before 4:00. It’s harder in the winter, especially on those days where the temperature falls below freezing.

A year ago I would bundle up and get outside every morning unless it was raining. These days I usually choose the treadmill because it saves me time. Instead of dealing with layers of clothes, headlamp, etc., I can be running in minutes. Is it the same experience? Far from it. It always feels like I work harder on the treadmill but the benefits are lower. The machine might be a Sole, but the workouts are somewhat soul-less.

The weekend provides far more opportunity for interesting running. Adding to that is the flexibility to start my run later and to run longer. Yesterday I enjoyed a trail run after a leisurely morning having coffee and spending time with my family. I wasn’t that excited about doing another neighborhood run today, but it was better than staying inside.

I probably overdressed this morning in response to the 34°temperatures reported on the news. The skies were dark and gray when I stepped outside so I left my sunglasses behind. About a mile into my run the sun came out and I began to regret that decision. The sun also started to warm things up and I hoped I wouldn’t end up completely saturated in sweat before I finished my workout.

Somehow I managed to stay comfortable throughout the run and I even picked up the pace a few times. I wanted to run at least four miles today to hit my weekly distance target and I ended up totaling 21 miles. It’s been a while since I’ve run at Bethpage so I’m thinking of heading there next weekend. In the meantime, the next four runs will probably happen on the Sole F63.

Benefitting from the indoor option

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

There was a period in 2010 when I avoided the treadmill for a period of months. It didn’t rain most mornings when I planned to run and, if it did, I’d use the elliptical instead. I hated the treadmill because it was tedious, hard and a little bit scary to use. In spring of 2011 we replaced our twelve year old machine with a Sole F63 and I began to view treadmill running somewhat more positively.

It seems like the frequency of rainy mornings has increased since that period in 2010 and there’s no elliptical option because the machine has been down for parts throughout most of the year. That has put me on the treadmill one or two times a week. Today’s iffy weather put me there again this morning.

I didn’t really enjoy yesterday’s run that took me over a mile to find my stride. Today’s was much different, even though I was very tired when my alarm jolted me awake. I briefly considered taking another rest day but reason (i.e., guilt) prevailed. This morning’s progressive speed run landed me within my desired heart rate zone and the time went by quickly. A good workout is a good workout, no matter what the surface.

Chillin’ with my biggest fan

May the force be with you

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I decided to run on the treadmill this morning because I knew it would be humid and I wasn’t too keen on gearing up for an outside run. In the past, a day like today would have been the reason to run outdoors. Things changed when we bought a stand up fan at Target and put it in front of the treadmill.

The treadmill itself has been a problem, with an ongoing issue with tread belt slippage. Although that’s annoying, the machine comes in handy on days like today. I put the new fan on its highest setting, turned on the treadmill’s small fans and started my run. Due to the slipping/jerking of the tread, I generally keep my speed at 6.5 MPH and below. I ran fairly slow today and set the grade to 2%, since elevation seems to minimize the slipping.

Although it was hot, I didn’t really start to sweat until I’d covered a mile. In fact, the force of the air coming off the fan was almost too strong and I’d wished I’d chosen the middle speed. Fans are cheap and they can do so much to improve the indoor experience on hot days like today.

The treadmill repair guy is supposed to come next week and (hopefully) we’ll get the tread issue resolved. In the meantime, we’ve been waiting months for parts for our elliptical. If you are thinking about getting a treadmill or an elliptical machine I would avoid buying anything made by Sole or BH Fitness.

Sole treadmill slippage, once again

Today’s run (treadmill): 40 minutes

Happy 4th of July. I keep forgetting that today is Wednesday because it feels so much like a Saturday. I’ll feel differently tomorrow when I’m standing on the the train platform at 6:15 AM. But this morning I had the pleasure of sleeping in until that time.

The weather is alternating between sun and rain this morning. I’d hoped the skies would clear long enough for me to get outside for a run, but the rain was coming down too hard. Instead, I positioned the stand up fan that’s in front of the treadmill and started my indoor run. I forgot to bring my iPad home from the office last night, so I didn’t have the Virtually Active app to distract me. I had to make due with the scene out the window.

Our Sole F63 treadmill has been a disappointment in the two years since we bought it. We’ve replaced a lot of the components under warranty, but the labor costs have made this unit far less than a bargain. We are, once again, experiencing tread belt slippage and this is both disconcerting and borderline dangerous. Our low end Pro-Form treadmill gave us over a decade of trouble-free service. It’s too bad that this highly rated Sole continues to experience chronic problems.

The slipping belt seemed to settle down after a few minutes of running, but it returned for short periods when I upped my speed. I ran about 40 minutes and was happy to come to the end. The AC and fan both helped against the high humidity, but it was still a soaking run. I’m glad to have completed a decent workout early enough to enjoy the rest of the holiday. The sun has returned, so today’s outdoor activities will probably include a little time in the pool.

Tedium reducing treadmill technique

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

As unlikely as it sounds, I was looking forward to doing a run on the treadmill this morning. I usually break up my training week with an elliptical session on Thursday’s, but our machine is down. Our treadmill, that had been down for the last nine days, was put back into service yesterday. At least we have one indoor option as we wait for the repair person to get the elliptical working again.

With a new motor and tread replacement, the treadmill felt like a brand new unit. While this model (Sole F63) isn’t whisper quiet, the sound level was noticeably better than the last time I’d run on it. I’m assuming the repair person performed a calibration because I felt that my perceived effort matched the speed that was displayed.

I followed my usual treadmill routine, starting at a moderate pace and increasing the speed every couple of minutes. Speeding up the pace actually made it a better experience because it broke down the activity into two minute periods. Focusing on the intervals between speed increases helped reduce the tedium of the experience. The time went by quickly and before I knew it, I was done. As much as I liked today’s workout, I’m planning to go back outside for tomorrow’s run.

The elliptical is damaged and the treadmill is down

Crack(ed) pipe on the X1 elliptical

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes
I had great expectations for years of problem-free workouts when we took delivery of our Sole F63 treadmill two years ago. Our Pro-Form L18 treadmill had served us well for 13 years despite the daily pounding it received. The Sole is good unit, with a powerful motor, generous tread area, and some nice features. We did have some problems with belt slip, early on, and we needed to replace the console, but those issues got resolved under warranty.

With the impressive long term performance of the Pro-Form machine, I expected the Sole to do just as well. However, a few weeks ago, my wife and I noticed that the sound from the motor had become especially loud. A visit from the repairman revealed a number of problems with the unit, and he ordered replacement parts. The parts are still covered under warrenty, but not the labor. You can’t have everything.

As we wait for the repair person to return next week, our only indoor option is to use the elliptical machine. This machine, a BH Fitness X1, has been a solid performer, despite some initial problems at the beginning. It was expensive, relative to other units in its class, but its build quality is better than what you might find at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

As it happened, the elliptical machine has also joined the disabled list, having cracked one of the struts that connects the pedal assembly to the dynamic arm assembly. I’ve been able to restore functionality by tightly wrapping the pipe-end with duct tape, but the torque from the crack has cantered the foot bed a couple of degrees to the left. It’s not that bad and the unit is still usable. We worried that the slight shift would lead to leg or knee issues, but neither my wife nor I have experienced anything like that.

Our treadmill repair person is an independent contractor and I’m hoping that he might be able to replace the elliptical’s pedal assembly after repairing the treadmill. I guess these units wear out, I’m just surprised how little time it takes before that happens.

Flat out on the treadmill

Today’s run (treadmill): 2.6 miles

It’s frustrating when thunderstorms move in after days of perfect running weather. I anticipated wet conditions this morning and planned a treadmill run for the morning. We are still having issues with our Sole F63, but the company has responded well. They sent us a replacement console that I installed and that fixed the problem with the speed control. However, the incline function is popping an error that requires recalibrating the treadmill. I can easily do this but the process to go into programming mode isn’t working.

Sole is sending some additional boards and cables that will hopefully allow me to get past this issue. In the meantime the unit works great as long you you only want to run level. That was good enough for me this morning, I started at an easy pace and worked up to the mid-8:00 range by the end of my run. It was a good workout, and though I don’t really like running on the treadmill, I’m glad I had that option today.

Two projects: Pure and Sole

Mis-Connecting with the PureConnect

Today’s run (street): 4.75 miles

Yesterday I had lunch with a colleague and then headed over to City Sports to look at some new items.  I’d received an email this week from City Sports saying they had Brooks’s new line of Pure Project shoes. These shoes, inspired by the minimalist running movement, have been greatly anticipated. If you follow Brooks on Twitter you might think that running in them approaches a religious experience.

My lunch mate is an avid cyclist so, while he went off to look at bike gear, I made my way to the running shoe section. I was helped by a salesperson who actually knew something about running shoes. This was a pleasant surprise because I usually get people who know very little about the differences between brands and models.

My salesman asked if I’d like to try a pair of the PureConnects, Brook’s most minimal model in the Pure Project line. I tried them on and my excitement was immediately deflated when I felt how snugly the shoe wrapped my mid-foot and arch. The back and front of the shoe felt awkwardly separated. The salesperson claimed that this snugness facilitated a mid-foot landing and I told him I didn’t think it was necessary to clamp my arch to do that. I did some strides in the limited space and did not think the shoes felt especially responsive.

Undeterred, the salesperson had me try on the PureFlow model which is a little more cushioned and has a stabilizing component that, interestingly, sits opposite from the medial side of the shoe. The Flow felt better on my foot than the Connect but I still didn’t like it. I tried a quick “run” and felt no chemistry. My primary rule about a running shoe is never believe sales people when they say “They will feel better when you run in them.” Sorry, but no. If it doesn’t feel right in the store, I’m done.

The obelisk in “2001: A Space Odyssey” looked harmless too

Speaking of “projects”, this weekend I will attempt to do a console-ectomy on the Sole to replace the system board that is preventing us from adjusting the speed of the treadmill. Right now, the parts are sitting in a huge box in the living room and I’m scared to look inside. I have a bad track record with “repairs” and I’m a little intimidated by the task.

Finally, I hit the local business park this morning to practice running roads with elevation. I needed to be back early, otherwise I would have headed to Bethpage. I ran to the park and circled the loop three times before heading back home. The route is not especially steep but there is a steady incline over half the distance.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to get in some speed work as I look toward next week’s 5K. I may also try running some inclines on the treadmill. That is, if I don’t permanently destroy the new control board today.