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Apple Plugs Apple Watch Ultra 2 Usage in Long-Distance Relay Race

I have been critical of Apple’s sports-related actions of late, focused as they are on a handful of high-profile spectator sports. So it’s only right to acknowledge that the company has recently given a little attention to running, albeit in a highly promotional way.

Annually, an unofficial, unsanctioned relay race called The Speed Project tasks teams of runners with traversing the roughly 340 miles between Santa Monica and Las Vegas. There’s no fixed course, and supposedly, the only rule is that runners may not run on freeways. Long-distance relays are enormous fun—I’ve had a great time running with friends in the Seneca 7 relay, which sends seven runners on a 77.7-mile loop around the nearby Seneca Lake.

Although Apple never divulges the details, I suspect the company sponsored a team in The Speed Project by providing the runners with Apple Watch Ultra 2 watches (and possibly iPhone 15 Pro Max phones to document the event). The result is an Apple Newsroom post that looks and reads much like other accounts of the event, apart from the stilted PR language plugging the watch:

As the team delves deeper into the Mojave Desert, they rely on the precision dual-frequency GPS of Apple Watch Ultra 2, which provides precise distance, pace, and route data.

I’d love to hear from the runners themselves how much setup, training, and in-race tech support Apple provided, and how well the Apple Watch Ultras actually performed on the course. It’s not that I doubt the basic capabilities of the Apple Watch Ultra, but my experience from working with numerous runners and Apple Watch users is that most barely scratch the surface of what their watches can do and have trouble navigating beyond the basic options, especially while running. I would also be surprised if there’s sufficient cellular coverage in the Mojave Desert to provide reliable communications throughout.

If you’re interested in more compelling stories from The Speed Project, I recommend Tracksmith’s highly graphical account (which manages to plug the company’s clothing less blatantly than Apple) and a pair of articles on the Women’s Running site about the Oiselle and On Running teams.

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Comments About Apple Plugs Apple Watch Ultra 2 Usage in Long-Distance Relay Race

Notable Replies

  1. Adam, there’s a fairly long video posted in which a hiker/software developer spends 3 days in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. He’s wearing an Ultra, not an Ultra 2, but he was extremely complementary

    You can find it via MULTIPLE web searches (it’s probably been reposted a dozen times); here’s one of them:

    Apple Watch Ultra for hiking in the Scottish Highlands

    Apologies; the version I’ve posted here contains ads

  2. Adam,

    I found a really worthwhile App for runners and mountain hiking (+ other sports but these benefit the most): WorkOutDoors link to Apple AppStore

    On your iPhone you can design the display of your Apple Watch to your needs. It provides a map of your environment including height plus any health related information the Apple Watch is able to provide. It’s also possible to configure any notification (vibration, voice and display) based on this like change of heart rate zones.

    You might also add a track to follow which is very helpful when hiking in difficult terrain like the Alps in Europe. It’s a bit difficult to manage at first but you might get routine.

    During the exercise you just need your watch. That’s all. It tells you all you might want to know, where you are, where you want to go and how your body status is.

    After your exercise you get a full log on most aspects on your iPhone. I love to check the heart rate in retrospect to understand where my body restricts me and when repeating how much I improved.

    The other App I use is Weathergraph Link to Apple AppStore which shows the current location’s weather outlook in an easy to understand way. So when hiking in difficult terrain like the Alps where weather changes might create problems you will notice in time that you have to change your plan and/or look for shelter.

    Both Apps are essential for my outdoor exercise and I can recommend them to anyone serious about running or hiking.

  3. I tried WorkOutDoors once on a hike on my Ultra back in December. Compared to my Garmin Epix 2, the experience was really poor. First, no auto scroll, and the layout just isn’t as good as an Epix. Second, my HR data was missing from the track on my Strava account. I wore it under my clothing, so the optical HR sensor should have been working. I always remember to bring my Epix now whenever I go on a hike.

  4. I have shared in another thread my experience of using the Apple Watch Ultra 2 while trekking the Annapurna Circuit last year, which might be a helpful reference. It worked fine and I will not hesitate to use it on my Manaslu Circuit trek later this year.

    That said, I use the Watch primarily for tracking health information and logging the hikes. I have not used it for navigation purposes as it was not necessary for the trek; I have a guide and the trails/roads were clearly marked. When I did, I still rely on paper maps and guidebooks.

    The few times I tried to use mapping and navigation apps (e.g. Wikiloc and AllTrails, not on the Annapurna Circuit), were frustrating as I tend to explore alternative routes - and the apps would incessantly alert me to get back on to the main trail. I would rather enjoy the walk in peace than fight the apps. Offline maps and GPS worked well enough, though; I just refer to the maps without recording my hike using those apps.

  5. Sorry to hear that, Paul.

    My experience is a different one. Auto scrolling works for me, I adjusted the display to my needs and I get all data attached to the logged track.

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