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Posts Tagged ‘garmin’

The super runner and blogger at Races Like a Girl asked me the other night how deeply I loved my Garmin Forerunner 405, as her older model kicked the bucket recently (R.I.P.) and she is looking to upgrade. 

I’ve never posted a full review of my handsome green training partner, mainly because I feel like I’m still plumbing the depths of all he has to offer. So, I’m not sure this review will be as comprehensive as others you may find on the web, but it will be earnest. 

Let me start by saying that my primary attachment to Little G is sentimental, since he was my reward for breaking 2 hours in the half. Every time I buckle my 405 onto my wrist, I remember the exhilaration of meeting that goal and the pleasure of getting the corresponding reward.

But, sentiment only gets you so far in training, and the features my gorgeous Garmin has to offer have to take it the rest of the way. 

Things I like:

  • The design: color, size, shape, the way the wristband is formed, the way the charger bites it like a gentle alligator.
  • These features: autolap, lap button, wireless sync, heart rate monitor, GPS (as a tracking tool), ability to switch time zones,  uploading to Garmin Connect to see my route and stats (although the site itself sucks; see below)
  • Their customer service team. Vern!

 Things I haven’t used yet:

  • Workouts
  • Heart Rate Training
  • GPS (as a navigational tool)
  • This informational video will fill you in on what I’m unable to opin

 Things that annoy me:

Satellite, Anyone? In some parts of New York City, it is impossible (or takes 5 minutes or more) to for Little G to locate a satellite. Thankfully, I get a signal outside my office, but conversely I never get one when I head out from Paragon with Nike Speed.

Drunken Runner? Similarly, there are moments when the signal will get wonky, like over the 59th Street Bridge, under the West Side Highway, or even through Sunnyside on a cloudy day. The Forerunner 405 has reported that I have run certain miles in 6:45, simply because its signal is zigzagging when I’m running straight.

Renegade Bezel! The bezel frequently switches-on its own-to Virtual Partner or Heart Rate screens when I’m running. This was a major annoyance during the final miles of the NYC marathon when I’d glance to check my pace and I’d see my heart rate, or “1 Minute Behind.” I’d have to spend several seconds futzing with Little G to get the timer screen back.

Incorrigible Button. The lap button does not always catch when I push it. This sucks when, for example, I’m doing hill repeats and I’ve been at the top of the hill for 5 seconds or more still trying to record the end of that lap.

Weak Ticker. The battery lasts not even 24 hours before Little G needs a charge. It’s aggravating when the “Low Battery” alert pops up and covers the autolap notices, so I can’t see my mile splits.

Garmin [Dis]Connect. This “sharing” site claims it has social networking functionality (you can post the workout to Facebook or email it out) but there’s no way for members to maintain an open profile and invite “friends” on Connect so that others can just log on and review and compare your training and others’ training. Also, there are no mile markers on the maps that are created from your workout data. The site is very slow, and frequently down. Only this past week they released the Mac platform–which 405 users have been waiting for since the end of April 2008 (at least). I realize there are other online options for crunching my Garmin workouts but I am not tech savvy and without written instructions from the manufacturer am intimidated. 

I can’t compare the 405 to any other Forerunner model, unfortunately, as the 405 is the only Garmin I’ve ever had. I saw it during its launch at the Boston Marathon Expo and it was love at first tap of the bezel. For me, the primary benefit of Little G is the way it (mostly) accurately tracks my mileage and organizes my workouts. Autolap is an excellent tool, and I am getting used to Virtual Partner though I don’t rely on it the way some of my running buddies do. 

As I re-read what I’ve written, I know it seems like a litany of complaints-but honestly, it’s going to take a lot more for me to throw over Little G. 

How does everyone else out there feel about their Garmins, 405’s or otherwise? Sarah–I know you have it bad for your Garmy. Brother? Laminator? Ansky? Please comment away for our friend Julie.

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Dear Vern,

I’ve never met you, but if I ever do, I’m buying you as many drinks as you care to consume in an evening.  Please let me know if you are ever in New York City, because unfortunately I won’t ever be coming to Olathe, Kansas.

Vern, you listened to me when others downplayed my issues. You sympathetically clucked with dismay when I told you how Little G just pooped out during my run a week ago, even though he was fully charged. You wondered aloud why my Forerunner 405 would have jammed, inexplicably. My green Garmin’s been having a rough several days, but you kept your cool, Vern, and doled out the practical advice and step-by-step instructions that cured him.

I told you about how the battery cover on my heart rate monitor strap had gotten jagged from when I replaced the battery, and was scratching me so badly during my runs that I now had a perpetual scab right in the center of my torso, on the soft skin right beneath my…, well, you got the idea. Was there any way I could buy a replacement battery cover? No, there wasn’t but you, Vern, you showed your resourceful side by taking one off another heart rate monitor the folks at Garmin headquarters “just had lying around,” and mailed it to me! Free of charge!

Today was the first time I ran with my new, smooth battery cover. Ah, what a relief! No more pinchy-stabby-scratchy. No more bleeding. And soon–when the old ones heal–no more scabs (and hopefully no scars). Vern, with every non-uncomfortable step I ran this afternoon, I thanked you and your employer, Garmin, for helping me fix Little G (three times!) and my heart rate monitor strap.

Sincerely yours,

TK

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Tonight was a special run, one I’ve been anticipating for weeks. I took the 225 bus from Lafayette to Boulder (listened to Road to Ensenada by Lyle Lovett and read part of a novel in manuscript about a female ultramarathoner–stay tuned for more), and met Brother (initials: IK) near where he teaches middle school history. First, we went to REI where we were going to pick out his birthday gift–he’s 19 months younger than I am, and just turned 34 on Election Day. I told him, “Gear!” and he said “Heart rate monitor!” After much comparison shopping (Suunto or Polar?), we zeroed in on the Garmin Forerunner 50, which comes with a footpod, unlike the other brands. Sold! And gifted. And oh yeah, I got some new SmartWool socks (my favorites), and tried on about 10 pairs of sunglasses, but ultimately couldn’t commit.

While we were at REI, I used one of the power outlets behind their customer service desk to charge little G. He’d gone dark about 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave for the bus, so I grabbed the charger and brought it with me, banking on some Boulderite goodwill. I really wanted little G to record the run with my brother so I could have the route mapped, and our splits charted, more for sentimental reasons than for training purposes. As suspected, the trim, fresh-faced women behind the counter were eager to help, and even cooed, “Ooh you have the 405? We love the green!”

Finally, though, IK and I were off and running up the well-known and exceedingly popular Boulder Creek Path, with a pocket plan of 5 miles total. It was dark, so all I could see of the scenery was the full moon, which glowed white, and the solid black mass of mountains rising in the west. Brother told me, “The way you love running in sight of your city’s skyline, and over your bridge? That’s how I feel about what surrounds me when I run on this path.” Because of the altitude, I couldn’t really hold up my end of the conversation, so instead I listened to his training and race plans for 2009, which include at least two triathlons, several stroke and strides, and at least one marathon (NYC with me, and he’s already trash-talking).

My shins bothered me again, they were both throbbing and making it painful to bend my ankles. My breathing didn’t really get comfortable until about 3 miles into the run. (My red gloves were not helping my cause the way they had on Monday.) By this point, however, my brother had taken a wrong turn somewhere, and we were seriously off the path. Like, so off the path that we’d begun cutting through parking lots, plazas, and up and down a lot of curbs to get back on track. We were never lost-IK knows Boulder so well-but all of the cutting left and right, curb-jumping, and running on an angle across driveways aggravated my recovering body. Somewhere around Mile 4 my left leg began hurting in its entirety, and by the time I most reluctantly stopped little G and cut the workout short (after 4.39 miles in 43:23), I was limping. This truly bummed me out, not only because I was hurt but also because I wasn’t ready to end my run with Brother. There were so many more things I wanted to ask him about, to catch up on before we headed home. But something tells me that even if we’d run 15 miles, I’d have still wanted more time to run shoulder to shoulder, and talk heart to heart, with my little brother. 

Once we were back at the house, we did have a lot of fun setting up his new toy, though. My sister-in-law laughed at us and called us total geeks as Brother and I confirmed all the features our Garmins have in common, sorted out how to calibrate the footpod, and determined that in fact he can’t take advantage of the wireless synch (he has a Mac, and Garmin’s system is only PC-compatible).

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It’s been a long time since I’ve run a race without a goal, without the intention of giving it my best effort. But, this Sunday’s Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5 Miler had a purpose even higher than a PR–it was the eighth of my nine qualifying races for guaranteed entry to 2009’s NYC Marathon. (This year’s NYC will be my ninth; I already did my Plus-1 volunteering back in March.) 

I wasn’t well-rested (Joan Osborne), and I skipped breakfast. Five miles, come on! No eating needed before five miles. Got to the start, got my bib and tee-shirt (oh no, this means I have to take one out of the Drawer), and as I found my corral, my TNT buddy RK shouts my name. He flies down from Toronto to run his qualifiers, visits with his girlfriend, and calls it a weekend. Even though Sunday dawned sunny and clear, Saturday had been rainy all afternoon. RK’s flight was turned back twice before they landed at Laguardia. Ultimately, he spent six hours on a plane, and this is after he ran a 20-miler in preparation for the Honolulu Marathon this December. Runners: we are a special, special kind of crazy. 

So, we were off. I wanted to try out the Virtual Partner feature on little G, as it had been suggested to me that it could be a tool to keep myself on track at next week’s event, but after a couple of miles I realized it’s not how I think about my pace, and I went back to the stopwatch/distance/pace screen. Most days, I’m a negative split runner, so my pace changes from mile to mile. Even though ultimately my pace averaged out to faster than what I’d set the VP (let’s run nice and easy 9:30’s), in the beginning I was 40 to 20 seconds slower, which was discouraging for me. Who needs that? 

Also, my calves and shins felt like columns of cement the first three miles. It took a certain kind of TK-stubborn to keep lifting them with each step until finally they loosened up. I blame the taper. Lesson: stretch double this week, TK. Check! 

I finished the race in 46.43, nearly 4 minutes off my PR. Got my bagel and water and went directly to the office, where I put in a solid eight hours of clean up, catch up and set up.

Race day cannot get here fast enough!

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The green sweater I’m wearing today. The green bracelet and earrings that decorate me. The green Maruca purse I’m carrying. 

The goal that I met when I broke 2 hours in the Queens Half-Marathon. But doubly, and most fabulously, today G is for my brand-spanking new Green Garmin Forerunner 405

It’s rare that as an adult you’ll ever (or at least, that I’ll ever) have as much fun unpacking a new toy as I did when I was 8 years old on Christmas morning, but last night I sat with my pristine Garmin and fiddled and browsed until I looked up and it was well past my bedtime. I’d plowed through my day and evening with this one moment in mind, Get it all done, TK, so you can hang with G later. 

I love how the charger is like a little crocodile jaw that gently takes the watch in its teeth to power it up. I love how the bezel ring clicks, and the menu trills, and the screen flashes greetings and updates at me. I can already tell, my G loves me back, and is on my side. 

If I needed additional positive proof of how well we’ll be getting along, I got it this morning on my five-miler (which should have been a jiggity-jig last night but I won’t get into that as I’m trying to be relaxed today). You see, G told me that the loop I’ve always thought was 2 miles is in fact 2.2 miles. This potentially means that I’ve been running 10% more on every single Sunnyside Loop workout I’ve done for the past five years. It may be a little premature to make a blanket statement about the loop’s distance–I want to run it a few more times with G to see if it always throws down the same distance–but this first run holds promise. Can’t wait to see what my Garmin tells me about my 10-miler tomorrow. This could very well be the beginning of a long romance between me and sweet green G.

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[It is a sad, sorry statement on how hard I’ve been working that my Boston Marathon spectator report is getting posted in May.]

If I were to tell people I traveled & took a day off work to go to the SuperBowl, no one would question me.  In fact they’d be jealous. But when I tell people I took Amtrak up to Boston and used a vacation day to spectate at the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials and at the Boston Marathon, I get one response: you’re such a geek. Even when I counter with, I’ll be visiting a friend, I know folks who are running on Monday, they remain nonplussed. All this means to me is that I’m not spending enough time with runners.

As an avid spectator at the New York City Marathon, standing year after year on the same corner in Queens, next to the tissue people and across from the high school band that plays seven different versions of “Ironman”, I will swear up and down that my city’s marathon is the best in the world, no matter if you’re running or rooting. 

I have to admit: as I headed up to Boston, I harbored a germ of skepticism that the oldest marathon in the country could compare to mine.  Was the enthusiasm reported back to me about the race simply due to local pride, and pride in the cachet of having qualified for the exclusive event? I wondered perhaps if it wasn’t the self-congratulation of those involved that puffed it up. Certainly, and rightfully so, pride does have something to do with it. But was there anything beyond that? That’s what I was hoping to find out.

No need to leave you in suspense.  There’s way more beyond that.  The crux of the issue, really, is that the character and talent of the field blows away any other race.  It’s obvious to me now, but I hadn’t considered this before April 19th as I headed towards the Expo (which, by the way, kicks ass over New York’s Expo.). Everywhere I looked there were lithe, fit, beautiful runners. Runners who had hit the wall and powered through, who had recovered from injuries, who had run scores of races, who raced with clubs, teams, or spouses. Runners who could name more than two elites, who had the fancy gear and used it, regularly (I could tell by the salt residue on their Garmins). The focus on the sport, the level of conversation about it, was higher than at any race I’d ever previously attended (as spectator or athlete). And, these runners wore their dedication to the sport with ease, like an afterthought.

This set a welcoming, celebratory tone that made for exellent spectating. Event he other spectators were a step above. I stood next to parents who were clutching for their daughter in her third running; to track stars who had cheered for friends in the trials the day before, and now were cheering for other teammates. We were elated when Cheruiyot won his fourth set of laurels for the course; ecstatic when young Dire Tune passed Biktimirova in the final stretch. I did feel very much alone in my indignation of Lance Armstrong being given a tape to break when he crossed the finish (wtf?! He hasn’t won anything, why is he breaking a tape? Give us all a tape to break!).  I spotted two of my coaches as they ran towards the finish, and I was so proud to know, personally, people on the course.  I looked for Steve Runner and Matt Runner, my favorite podcasterdudes, but missed them.  I reluctantly dragged myself away from the fence to catch my 3:20 train home to New York.  Boston really does get the special ones: in my car alone there were two runners, in sweats, with their medals around their necks, sucking back water and chowing down on turkey sandwiches, looking for all the world as if they’d just popped into town for a jog with some friends, and were hoping to make it home in time for dinner. 

One day. One day.

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Brilliant

Having missed last week’s long run, I was hell-bent determined to run ten today.  Last night the weatherman was predicting rain all day, so I packed for both cold and warm weather.  We made it to our house in Pennsylvania around 10:20 PM, and I was in bed and enjoying anAmbien-aided sleep by 10:50 PM.  I knew I needed to get an uninterrupted night’s rest if I was to have a successful run today.  Up at 9 AM, had breakfast (a bowl of Cracklin’ Oat Bran with skim milk and a cup of coffee), and puttered around for about 20 minutes getting ready, playing with the dog, etc., until I felt adequately digested.  The habits I have before a long run have the two pronged effect of relaxing me and building up my anticipation for the workout.  I jumped on the computer and made sure I had the there-and-back mileage correct.  Yep: 10.4 miles round trip, from the barbershop on Route 940 East to the Pub in the Pines and back. 

From the second I stepped out of the house, I felt grateful, and lucky, and brilliant.  All because of the weather, which was 65 degrees, with the breeze and sun chasing last night’s storm clouds out of my piece of sky.  I can’t think of anything better to do with a day like today than to run for as long and as far as I feel like.  It’s just the right–the brilliant–thing to do.

It took me a while to warm up, maybe two miles, but once I did I felt for sure gmap-pedometer had given me the wrong mileage for the distance because when I hit the halfway point my watch was well under 50 minutes. (This is why I need a Garmin, my runner’s brain thought. Need. I am ashamed at the way we use the word.)  The route is hilly, but for the most part they are gentle hills, with only a couple at the very end which require strategy and form adaptation.  I worked up a sweat, and the cool tailwind that pushed me up one of the first slopes brought a smile to my face. 

Around Mile 9 my form started to slip a little as I got tired.  I could feel myself leaning forward, and had a hard time keeping my eyes looking forward rather than at the ground.  Sometimes I run on terrain (like some of the crappy city streets) where I need to see what’s coming up to avoid stepping in a pothole or on trash and risking injury, but they have recently repaved Route 940 and the shoulders were smooth and rather bouncy for asphalt.  Got me thinking I should be doing exercises to strengthen my core, if I’m serious about running a sub-2-hour half this year.  How will I be able to maintain speed if I’m fighting to keep my torso comfortably erect?

Let me try and tell you how beautiful this run was.  Even though I was heading into the wind on the way back, it hardly mattered.  To be able to look up and gaze across the reservoir, or into the awakening woods on either side of the road felt like freedom to me.  I was running untethered — no Blackberry, no layers of winter clothing, no other runners to compare myself to.  At one point I imagined I had expanded so that I had no physical boundaries, but rather was moving through and with the water, the trees, the birds and the sky that decorated the world around me. It was simply amazing.

I finished my run in 1:36:51, licking my upper lip with astonishment (it tasted like I’d been swimming in the ocean, that’s how salty my sweat is).  A 9:18 pace?  I didn’t feel like I was working that hard.  I’d have believed it for a shorter distance, but 10.4 miles?  After I finished stretching, I got in my car and drove the route, fully aware that it’s less than accurate to measure running distances that way.  Anyway, the car told me I’d run 10 miles, and that I could accept — 9:41’s sound more probable to me.  So while I’m not quite sure how far or exactly how fast I ran, I’m sure I broke 10-minute miles for my long run!  That’s a first for me, and I am feeling hopeful and confident that I’ll be able to meet the goals I set forth for myself this year.

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I haven’t run in Central Park since the Manhattan Half-Marathon over a month ago, so it was a real treat to dash up there after work to meet one of my friends from my first TNT season for a social run.

It’s a perfect plan, really.  Work until 6:15, do the quick-change in my office as if I was running home, run up 5th Avenue to 61st Street, and bingo! Not a minute after I arrive my friend DR crosses 5th Avenue towards me.  I of course am in shorts and a long-sleeved tee-shirt, while she has on a hat, shirt, sweatshirt and running tights. But, at least we matched with our blue eyes and brown hair.

As we are deciding how far we’re going to run, D starts fiddling with this massive fob on her wrist.  A Garmin 350.  Curiosity!  I’ve never seen one this up-close before.  It’s extremely large, I suppose to accomodate its extremely large brain.  In any event, 36:08 minutes later, it tells us we’ve run 3.4 miles, which is about .4 miles than D was hoping to run.

We ran up from 62nd Street along the east side of the park.  I know that side of the park so well, and this time it was a pleasure to be out with the packs (and there were a lot of runners on the footpath).  Sometimes, after too many runs in the park, I take its hills personally.  But, tonight I was content to run the familiar road, and enjoy D’s conversation. At one point our old coach from TNT passed us, but I didn’t recognize anyone else out there. We ended our run deciding to make Thursday evening a standing date at the park;  I hope it holds.

Didn’t get any running in earlier this week; work has been extremely time-consuming lately.  I did, however, lock in my preferred Runner slot for the Green Mountain Relay — I’m runner #7.  Over the three legs, I’ll be running 17.3 miles, which are mostly downhill (net elevation change -1,179). And, I plan to run home from work tomorrow, and then take a long run on Sunday (I am not sure if I’ll have a chance to run on Saturday, since I want to watch Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenheim battle it out in the USA Men’s 8k Championships).

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