I admit it, I’m a Garmin addict, my 305 Forerunner is a great piece of kit and I didn’t realise I needed it so badly. It’s encouraged me to run a couple more times than I might have and in particular helped me to patiently run longer distances.
Firstly, although it is carried on your wrist, don’t pretend it’s a watch. The newer 405 is more watch-like in proportions but I actually prefer the bulky square 305 that displays 4 pieces of information constantly rather than data being scrolled around a smaller screen. Although it’s bulky it’s not as heavy as it looks and is quite comfortable. The wireless heart monitor is comfortable too and I’ve had no problems picking up my heartbeat even without using the conductive gel they recommend. It can take a couple of minutes to pick up a GPS signal, this morning it seemed a little quicker: I gathered together ipod, phone, gloves, hat and after raising my feet on the tree stump outside the house to tighten my laces, by the time I had put all the rest of my kit in place the satelites had locked on and I was ready to go.
I have amended the screen to show 4 rather than 3 bits of data: Distance, elapsed time, pace and heart rate. When in running mode the pace is minutes per mile whilst cycling is in mph. There are about 10 other things that could be displayed instead but nothing that seemed as useful. The elevation recording is a bit dodgy when running: All my runs so far have been circular but I’ve ended up higher than when I started, I wonder if this is due to the movement of my arms when running as the same issue doesn’t arise on circular bike rides. I’ve set the monitor to pause when I’m stationary and this will help compare my quick morning bike rides. I have smoothed some of the output by only measuring every second and this reduces some of the noise on the graphs. The data can be analysed to a degree off line but the on-line Garmin connect centre offers so much more, with detailed Google maps offering a terrain view and you can play-back the ride to match your various stats to a geographical point against the map. I just wish there was a further smoothing option to see how your pace and heart rate changes minute by minute.
How does all this information help me? Well for example on my 10k runs I have seen my heart rate increase in the second half of the run whilst I have maintained a similar pace. These being early morning runs, I guess the energy levels have dropped too low so to run a good or more comfortable 10k I need to have breakfast inside me (or accept there will be a drop off). Bike riding stresses my heart more than running but on rides I know well, such as my commute, I accept this rather than having the patience to climb hills in a far lower gear.
I could use the monitor to race against myself on a known route – this might be useful for my quick 20k rides and quick 5k runs around the park. Also, I can set up zones so the watch warns me if my heartrate goes too high. At the moment I haven’t got the patience to drop my speed enough to compensate but maybe this is something I can learn. I like recording my mileages anyway and have documented all my runs, rides and swims for 2010 on a wallchart in the garage but there was never any breakdown of the performance for each activity – just a total time.
There could be other devices out there that do the job as well but I trusted the Garmin reputation and a couple of guys in the office use Garmins already. The 305 Forerunner seemed to be the device in their range that met all my needs. Initally I wasn’t too bothered about the heart monitor but now realise that it’s integral to monitoring my performance. Freddy is stopping me training too hard but encouraging me to exercise longer and more frequently, though it has to be said that we haven’t had any rain over the last week.