On Saturday, I finished Tough Mudder, a 18-kilometre obstacle-filled stagger through mud and water and dirt. I wore a Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch to track my time and distance; I fully expected it to get utterly destroyed, but it stood up to the punishment of crawling through mud-filled tunnels, and falling into giant dirty pits of water, and being electrocuted.
It's Tuesday morning, and it's functioning perfectly — I'm almost disappointed.
Tough Mudder is billed as "probably the toughest event on the planet". Even if the off-road running isn't particularly tough — at least for anyone that's trained, unlike me — the obstacles certainly are. Jumping out across a giant pit of water to swing on a metal bar and try and ring a bell? Crawling through a tent filled with tear gas on your hands and knees? Sliding into a freezing pit of muddy, gritty water — and then ducking back under again? Sure, if you're not wearing a $499 smartwatch.
I put on the Gear S2 almost as an afterthought, early on Saturday morning. Basically, I didn't want to scratch up my stainless steel Huawei Watch, and I'd forgotten to bring a proper fitness watch like the Suunto Traverse. It was only once I got to the actual location, an hour's drive north of Sydney in the mud- and horse-poo-filled Glenworth Valley, that I questioned whether it'd survive. One of the guys in our Tough Mudder team, who'd run the course before in its previous year, said that it didn't stand a chance.
I was moderately confident of the Gear S2 surviving. Samsung says it's IP68 rated, which means it should stand up to half an hour's immersion in 1.5 metre deep water, as well as being apparently totally dust tight — that's what the 6 in IP68 stands for. So, slightly fatalistic and resigned to basically throwing away a couple of hundred dollars worth of wearable technology, I started the run. I'm not going to lie, I'm not very fit, and I wanted a record of my exercise — so I could point to it as a reason for being sore and tired.
I'm not going to pretend that I didn't think the Gear S2 was dead, about halfway through the 18km run. That's mostly because I literally couldn't see the screen, covered in thick fine mud like every other part of me. But it survived, stayed powered on, and even kept (mostly) monitoring my heart rate over the 3.5 hours I and my valiant teammates struggled from obstacle to obstacle, uphill and downhill, into mud and out of mud. By the end, the Gear S2's clicky, rotating bezel — the thing that makes it different to every other smartwatch — was locked solid and filled with dried muck. It literally wouldn't move.
But, after a couple of minutes under a tap, with a bit of scrubbing, the Gear S2's screen came to life — and it proved itself as Tough Mudder ready. You can see from the photos above that it's barely even scratched. There are a couple of scuffs on the edge of the casing, and one or two dings in the screen, but no more than any other watch would get over the course of its life. And, S Health tells me, it tracked my movement reliably, for a 25744-step, 22.96-kilometre day, with a heart rate that stretched from 56pm (great!) to 190 (not great!). 1050 calories later, I think I earned that beer and pizza at the finish line.
I'm not surprised the Gear S2 survived Tough Mudder, even though I certainly didn't try to keep it away from the action. I'm just surprised that it survived with barely a scratch. Colour me impressed, Samsung. For what it's worth, Tough Mudder did cost me a GoPro Hero 4, which is probably still at the bottom of a mud-filled pit of water under a set of extremely slippery monkey bars. Rest in peace, GoPro. [Samsung]
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