Wednesday, May 21, 2008

GPS Watch Envy...

Looking for some good GPS/HRM advice. I decided it might be time to treat myself to some techmology and buy a GPS based watch. So what has finally spurred me on? Jessie is sporting the new Forerunner 405, and quite frankly I am very uncomfortable with my girlfriend having a geekier watch than me.

So the question to you guys. Have these watches really bettered your running lives? All anecdotes, watch recommendations, tips, or thoughts are appreciated.


JP said...

I've been looking at the new Garmin as well. I'm not going to buy it though.

I've had every Polar model ever made for runners. I'm currently using the Polar RS800sd. It's a piece of crap. It has a GPS option. Don't buy it. It's awful.

The Garmin looks great and it seems that Chris, David, Matt and Cahn (when he still ran) really like the ability Garmin provides to download all the workout data. I'm sure that would appeal to you as well.

I have always been a proponent of heart rate training. It seems to me that it is the most objective way to determine workout quality. I also think using a heart rate monitor for LTs, speed work and racing is important... especially for someone who is prone to going out a little too fast (RICK)!

That said, I'm probably going to go "old school" for my training this year. I just read an interesting book called "Brain Training for Runners" by Matt Fitzgerald. Among other interesting recommendations, the book encourages a stronger mental connection with the body. He believes that subjective feedback is more useful than objective feedback for runners. He cites numerous examples. I won't bore you... but it's pretty interesting stuff if you're interested in this type of thing.

It appears that I'm not going to fully recover physically -- so I'm looking for ways to make my training more enjoyable. Throwing away the heart rate monitor will certainly help.

Chris said...

I saw that Ali G episode last night. Never disappoints. Have you seen this one?

On the subject of the Garmin, my conclusion is the 305 is the best running watch I have owned, and I really mean that just from a watch standpoint, not including the GPS, HRM and software. Like JP, I have been a watch/HRM/SDM junkie: Nike Triax Elite SDM (second fav), Polar s625x, Polar RS200sd and Suunto T6.

What I Like

1. Despite is large size, the physical design is one of the best attributes, primarily the start/stop and lap buttons on the face of the watch, similar to Polar watches, rather than on the size of the bezel like you will find on the Nike and Suunto watches. Frankly, I think this is an area that Garmin really messed up with the 405. The watch also feels pretty decent and not like a brick attached to the wrist.

2. Having three customizable screens with up to four metrics per screen in large type is really nice. I most often use: HR%, Lap Time, Lap Distance and Overall Time. Other watches let you customize the screens, but none with the ease of the 305. The 405 gives you fewer metrics per screen.

3. The Garmin software is pretty darn good, better than the Nike and Suunto. But it doesn't let you add workouts that were not done with the watch, so it can't be a complete package.

4. The GPS is really nice to have. There are limited occasions where it doesn't work, but I have not been frustrated by it. I still use the lakefront mile markers. And for those workouts when you are out of town or away from the lakefront, it's nice to know distance and pace stuff.

5. HRM. I nearly always use it for two reasons: objective feedback that I can massage with how I feel to determine effort, fitness, etc; and for any given pace, occassionally I work to try to manage down the %HR(max). I agree with Pearman about being in tune with the body, but just like I use other objective measures like time and distance, I find %HR(max) helpful as well.

What Could Be Better

1. Battery life. If you remember to keep the watch charged, it's fine. If not, you'll start a tempo workout cussing yourself.

2. Why doesn't anyone besides Polar have that neat feature where you can program the hold to perform a function when you hold the watch near the HRM? I loved that about the Polar.

3. Size. It would be nice to be smaller. Uh hum.

4. If you really like to know your elevation changes, you'll have to use an external program to "massage" the data. Not a big deal for me.

Others To Consider

1. The 405, but there are things about the 405 that I don't like: the buttons, the touch bezel, seems somewhat more difficult to learn/navigate and they don't have any software for the Mac (they were supposed to, but Garmin is horrible at meeting its publicly announced product dates).

2. Nike? Because of a complaint I posted about the Nike Triax Elite SDM, I got an email from a Nike product manager asking for more information for new products they were developing. But that was nearly two years ago and I haven't seen anything new from Nike.

3. I won't ever buy another Polar product unless I hear praise from people I trust. The last two models I owned have broken and one of those really unfortunately was at beginning of the Chicago Marathon.

4. Suunto has a nice product and recently new models, but it's hard to use, the buttons are difficult to press. And their software is horrible.

Rick said...

Thanks for the quality feedback. This gives me more context before I thunk down my cash on a new watch. Also, I think I will go out and get the Fitzgerald book. Sounds interesting.

FYI. I just checked out the Garmin Training Center and the latest software version has a lot of updates. First off, it is now available for Mac. Also, it appears that you can originate workouts with the software to transfer to the watch.

JP said...

Great stuff Chris.

JP said...

Even if you don't pick up Matt Fitzgerald's book -- his website/blog has some great stuff. Yesterday's post is great:

Rick said...

JP, Is that a picture of Ed trailing Baudaschnitzel? If so, that is absolutely hilarious. If only Ed could see it.

Thanks for the Fitzgerald link.

JP said...

Yes. That is exactly what that picture is. Ed failing to keep up with Mike. I miss Mike.

Chris said...

Thanks for the research, Rick. Unfortunately, that Training Center version is only for the 305. The 405 uses different software that is not yet available for the Mac.

I have no idea why these companies spend any time at all developing anything other than simple PC(or Mac) to Web data transport mechanisms at the OS layer and then build all of their functionality into a kick-ass web application. Instead, they write for Win XP, Vista, Mac (10.4, 10.5). Ugh! Stop the madness!

Danni said...

I would get the 305 - it was just on sale at REI and I think is cheap at CostCo. Same GPS technology but a lot cheaper and very good. (Not as detailed as Chris am I no)