Life, Running, & Medicine.
Notes on life as I see it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Toys: Garmin Forerunner 101 GPS

Ok, so Christmas from my wife this year brought the Garmin Forerunner 101, mainly because I saw it in Target for a $100 and thought it looked like a great deal.  Right now in my life (and slow poke training) I just can't justify the pricetag of the 305.  The 101 seemed like it had most of the key features and seems like a deal at cool Franklin.  I'll leave a quick review SO FAR of my experience, mainly as a resource for anyone looking to buy one of these training watches.
SYNOPSIS: This is a low-end GPS training "watch" that uses satellite technology to track the user's runs, walks or bikes.  Garmin is a popular namebrand of all things GPS.  This unit can display current pace, total pace, lap pace, distance, time, lap time, elevation and grade (pace can be changed to speed for bikers).  It will record pace/time/distance data for 100 workouts.  Like all GPS devices, it will not work indoors and needs a clear view of the sky to work "best".  Unlike pedometer style trainers, eg the Nike+, it will not work on a treadmill.
PRICE: This device is selling now for about $100.  There is a cheaper GPS trainer out there at around $50, the Forerunner 305 is the "full featured" Garmin trainer at about $250.  The Forerunner 301 is around $150 at Amazon and also has a includes USB connectivity and heart rate monitoring.
OVERALL: Seems like just the right device for the person not wanting to spend a ton but wanting a bit more accuracy and features than the Nike+ system.  Would consider the Forerunner 301 or 205 also.
- The biggest is twice now in 3 days it has not started up without me manually removing/replacing the batteries and then starting with the power button.  I don't know what causes this.  The data is not lost during this. The batteries are new.  This is most concerning.
- The 101 and 201 do not sync to a computer, so runs have to be manually entered if you want to blog your runs.
- Elevation is GPS-based, not a barometric altimeter, which means it is less accurate.  It does seem to display a changing elevation though.  I don't know if this is calculated in to the calories-burned algorithm.
- Elevation and grade data is not recorded, only displayed.
- Size of unit is much larger than a watch, but on par for these products.  I hate wearing watches but I'm not too bothered by this on my run.
- Very limited for "navigation", eg no street maps, no waterways, nothing.  So if you're in a strange land and try to return to your starting point you may be blocked by, say, the Mississippi River, another country, or the Pacific Ocean.  It is helpful and useful but far from full-featured.
- Battery life at 14 hours, but some out there are using rechargeable AAA's.
- Paula Radclife doesn't come on and talk to me.  And it doesn't play music.
- ACCURACY!  Of course it has some probs calculating your pace for the first 20 seconds or if you go under a bridge, but by and large this seems right on.  I was worried about some of the canopied roads I run on - it seems to work fine.  Probably as long as you are running fairly straight it can can get away with loosing the signal temporarily without any impact on your overal pace.  I run on a lot of hills and the Nike+iPod is notorious for being inaccurate (because stride length varies on the hills).
- Virtual training partner feature is simple but something lacking in the iPod.  Set your partner to run  at a 9:00 pace and it tells you how far ahead or behind you are.
- Pace Alerts.  You can set the Forerunner to beep at you when you slow down or speed up beyond certain limits (you customize).
- History feature.  Stores a synopsis of your run (but not all the location points).
- Navigation.  It is limited but will be nice when out of town, like at a hotel, and you want to just go get lost on a run.  Just "Set Mark" at the hotel, go run, and when you're ready to return just "Goto Mark" and use the navigation screen to find your way back.
- Has an auto-rest feature if you want.  If your pace dips below a certain customizable level the timer stops recording (good for water breaks).
- Counts your calories, allows you to enter your weight in your "profile".
- Turn down the screen contrast on the settings menu to lowest visible for longer battery life.
- Turn on the "auto lap" feature so it automatically records your lap data every 1 mile.
- Make a custom screen displaying Pace and Average Pace.

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