Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gear: Garmin Forerunner 305

Garmin Forerunner 305Back in the day, I used to run with both a stopwatch and a heart rate monitor on my arm. Then when I got back from my run (assuming I'd been running on the roads and not a track or a trail with mile markers), I'd plug my route into Google Maps and input that distance and the time from my watch into an Excel spreadsheet to determine my average pace.

GOD, can I tell you how beyond elated I was to finally consolidate all of these myriad functions into one gadget?

I was a bit skeptical about the prices of Garmins & similar devices at first and definitely spent multiple weeks researching all the available models to determine which made the most sense for me for the price. Ultimately I ended up spending Christmas money on the 305, which I've been exceptionally pleased with ever since.

I'll be the first to admit that I probably haven't tapped even half of the crazy power of this thing, but I'll happily tell you everything I love about it that I have used:

  • Basic stopwatch function (duh) with lap-counting ability.
  • Large, high-resolution screen with easy-to-read display and start/stop and lap buttons (the ones I use most often) that are large and situated front-and-center on the device
  • Heart rate monitoring, with ability to program alerts for heart rates above or below a certain threshold
  • GPS function that tracks how far you've gone with impressive accuracy, along with your instantaneous & average pace (thankyouthankyouthankyou!).
    Basic mapping
  • Basic map & route-tracking functionality; you can set the screen to show you the route you're running, zoom in and out, mark locations as you run, and even save it as a guide for running the same route later if you want.
  • Calorie tracking based on age, weight, and max heart rate (mostly I just find this interesting -- I don't pay all that much attention to it)
  • Programmable screens (up to three) that show up to four variables on the watch while you run (ie, the screen I use most often is programmed to show time, pace, distance, and heart rate, but there are also options to show elevation, grade, heading, calories burned, etc.)
  • Ability to store a large amount of data from your past runs (I've had mine for a year and a half and haven't had to erase any data yet)
  • Easy-to-access summary screen that shows average and max values for several different variables (heart rate, pace, calories burned, etc.) for any run (and any laps) stored in the device.
  • Included software package (Garmin Training Center) that lets you download your training data from your watch to your computer and look at more detailed maps of your route as well as graphs of your pace, heart rate, and elevation over distance or time. (The USB-enabled charging cradle doubles as a data cradle.)

Data screenGetting this device changed everything for me. No more peering at tiny numbers in dim light or bad weather. No more wondering how accurate online map applications are. No more guessing what my pace is when I'm running on unmarked roads or having to wait until mile marker 1 during road races to determine whether or not I'm not pace. I love it and believe it was worth every penny.

Which is not to say it's absolutely perfect. For one, it's big. Not as big as previous Garmins, I've heard, but still 2-3 times the size of your more traditional stopwatch. This hasn't bothered me at all (it actually contours pretty nicely to the wrist), but for some people it might be an issue.

Second, the GPS / pace function isn't absolutely flawless; there is definitely a little time lag in terms of what pace it displays, and though it normally picks up the satellites within a few seconds, there have been a couple of days where I've had to wait 5-10 minutes for it to lock on. Many reviewers seem to feel that buildings, trees, and weather don't interfere with the GPS, but sometimes I wonder; there are specific spots that I run past (a couple on track, which is annoying) where the instantaneous pace seems to reliably register faster or slower by enough that I know the numbers it's showing me can't possibly be accurate.

Finally, the 305s do seem to have a tendency to occasionally refuse to turn on and require a soft or potentially a hard reset to revive them. This has happened to me only once and I was able to turn it back on with all the data intact after just a little Googling and a soft reset. From what I've read on the Garmin user forums, the consensus seems to be that the unit is actually not quite perfectly waterproof, and if sweat or water does manage to leak inside, it can cause that to happen. Some users recommended sealing the case with silicone; I just do my best to keep it reasonably dry. (BTW, I’ve found that holding down ‘lap’ and ‘mode’ together for a few seconds solves the problem.)

But, overall, I highly recommend the 305. It's a solid piece of equipment that does a TON of amazing and useful stuff for the price, and if you've never trained with a Garmin or Garmin-like device, I guarantee it will change your running life.

No comments:

Post a Comment