Monday, May 24, 2010

New Toy

I recently got a new toy from a friend of mine. It's a Garmin 205 Forerunner GPS watch. My friend got a more recent model and wanted to give her old one a good home. I'm not really a "got to have the latest gadget" person when it comes to running. My most complex piece of technology that I run with is my iPod Nano. Even that isn't very new--it's 3 years old. My running watch is a cheap Timex Ironman model that has a stopwatch, countdown timer, and split times. I use a water carrier that's about 15 years old, but it's perfect for my needs and better than the newer water belts. 

The jury is still out on whether I really like the GPS watch or not. It has some positive and negative aspects. 

The Positives:
1.  It tells me my pace. I've spent most of the last 18 years running just for time and not for distance. In the places where I run, there are no kilometer markers. I have been curious about my training pace and how close I was to my estimated pace.
2. The display is large. Since I'm farsighted and need reading glasses for any close work, this is a nice feature. 
3. I always wondered how far I was really running. I have been guessing my distances based on how fast I thought I was running. Now I have a more accurate measure. For the courses that I run where there are no trees, and therefore easy access to the satellites, my estimated distance was very close to the actual distance. 
4. The Auto Pause feature. When I stop for a drink, the timer automatically stops. I don't have to worry about remembering to stop the timer. It also automatically resumes when I start running again. 

The Negatives:
1. I have a feeling that the timer stops every time the watch tries to locate the satellites. My times when I wear the GPS watch versus the Timex are much faster. While it is nice to think that I knocked almost a minute off of a 5 km course time, that sounds way too good to be true. We all know that if something is too good to be true, it usually is. If I was a beginning runner, that would be another story. When I was a beginner, I made some dramatic improvements in my pace. But I have been running for over 20 years. I could see a 10-second improvement in a personal course record, but 45 to 70 seconds seems to be a bit much. I know that my Timex is accurate because my watch times where chips are used are within hundredths of a second of my chip time. 
2. Even though the ad for this watch says that it's not affected by trees or tall buildings, I believe that it is. My estimated distances for courses with trees are way off from my estimates. In the past I never used a GPS watch because they were no good in the woods, where I ran most often. 
3. This is a minor thing, but the band doesn't fit just right. My Timex has a Velcro band, which I can adjust to fit my wrist exactly. The Garmin has a band with holes. With the hole that I use, the watch tends to slide around just enough to be annoying on a long run. But when I put it on the next tighter one, it's too tight. 
4. The watch chirps a lot. I think that's when it's trying to locate the satellites. That's something that I'll have to get used to. 
5. It revived my old obsession with my pace. The good thing about running for time rather than for distance is that it's harder to obsess about pace. When I see a certain pace on the watch, I start speeding up because it shows that I'm going "too slowly." I'm slowly training myself to only look at the Garmin at the same points where I would ordinarily check my Timex. That should reduce the obsession with my pace. 

I'll continue to use my Timex most of the time and the GPS when I do a new route or am curious about my pace. 

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