Garmin 210 – trouble keeping track on the track

A shot of the track from this morning

Today’s workout (track): 8 x 400’s plus 3 mile run

Since I’m racing again next Sunday, I wanted to get in a little speed work before I taper my training next week. This morning I headed over to the local high school track to run some intervals. There were a handful of runners and walkers already on the track when I arrived but the lanes were fairly clear. I brought a stopwatch as well as my Garmin and I ended up using the FR 210 to record my runs and used the stopwatch to time my rest periods between intervals.

I didn’t run the intervals hard. My goal was to do mile-equivalents a little faster than my 5K race PR and I managed to average 8:06 across eight quarter miles. I hoped that would recruit enough fast twitch fibers to give me some speed when I ran the following three miles (5K actually) and it did. I averaged 8:45 for that run.

A clear margin of error

The Garmin did not do a good job capturing my route. The picture above is a grab from Google Earth using the imported KMZ file. I stayed primarily in a middle lane but the GPS interpreted that much differently. Even though the 210 is always a little off I still like it a lot. It’s great to be able to run without swapping the foot pod every time I change shoes. Especially in the case of the Hattori’s that don’t even have a place to attach a foot pod.

I’m really happy with today’s workout. While I’m still not speedy, I’ve proven to myself that I can run sub-9:00 paces when I need to. The Hattori’s were interesting to use on the track and they responded well when I took off in a sprint to begin each interval. I haven’t decided what I’ll do for tomorrow’s Memorial Day workout but I am hoping to fold in a bike ride or two before I return to the office.

Garmin FR210 – your mileage may vary

Example of 210 cutting corners, under counting distance

Today’s run (street): 3.92 miles

As expected, the rain started last night and continued into the morning. At 7:00 AM I was considering doing an extended elliptical session rather than suffering a soaking run. By 7:30 the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I went outside in hopes of running 30-40 minutes before the next deluge. Yesterday’s Stillwell workout was rough, in the best of ways, but I felt no residual effects of it this morning.

It didn’t take too long to acquire a signal on the Garmin and I took off after a couple of minutes of dynamic stretching. I still had some pain in my left knee but it wasn’t too bad. At this point it’s an irritant more than an injury and it usually goes away after a few minutes.  I felt that I was moving fairly well at the beginning but according to the Garmin I was running slightly over 10 min/mile. By now I know the difference between a 9:30 and 10 minute pace and I also know that the Garmin, at best, under-counts my speed by 3%. I didn’t worry too much about my pace but I began to pick things up by mile 2.

After verifying my true distance on Gmaps I saw that the Garmin had under-recorded my run by 6.8%. An examination of my route recorded on the 210, using Garmin Training Center, showed the many variances from my actual route that added up to that margin of error. I’m guessing the heavy cloud cover may have interfered with the GPS sampling frequency. I was hoping that this watch would provide a closer margin than -3%, which seems to be the average variance. I’ll just expect to have an even greater variance on cloudy days.

Garmin 210 — upload troubles but consistent inaccuracy

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

Yesterday’s run, as recorded by the Garmin 210, came up short when compared to route mapping on both Gmaps and Google Earth. The variance in distance was about -2.5%. That seems close when viewed reciprocally (being 97.5% accurate) but I commonly saw less than +/-1% variance with a calibrated foot pod. I tried to upload my run to Garmin Connect so I could view the GPX and KMZ files that would show the recorded vectors against a Google map and, perhaps, reveal where the GPS capture cut corners. Unfortunately that attempt didn’t work within the time I had to try it so I’ll fight that battle this weekend.

I went out today and followed the same route as Wednesday, using yesterday’s distance as a benchmark. Both runs felt about the same but I ran about 39 seconds longer this morning. The Garmin recorded the route .01 miles less than yesterday’s distance so at least the 210 is consistent in its inaccuracy. I’m disappointed with Garmin for having such poor documentation related to uploading runs and I’m also disappointed to discover that the GPS is under-recording my distance. But I do like the watch and I’m certain that I’ll get it all figured out eventually.

First run with the Garmin 210

Now it’s just me, the road and 10 satellites

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

Last night UPS delivered my new Garmin 210 and I was excited by the prospect of doing my morning run free of the foot pod and calibration concerns. The foot pod wasn’t necessary but after the watches’ first use I do question the overall accuracy. I bought the watch online this weekend — the basic 210 without the foot pod/HRM bundle. I got a great price and free delivery two days later. I un-boxed the watch and plugged it in to charge the lithium battery. Setup took seconds and the watch automatically acquired the date and time via satellite signal.

This morning I was excited to try the watch. My only experiences with GPS tracking were with various GPS apps on my iPhone (bad) the QStarz Sports Recorder (worse). I stepped outside and activated the satellite receiver and the 210 grabbed its connection in seconds. My iPhone usually takes minutes to get a GPS signal. I hit the start button and off I went. My knee is still bothering me but after getting the “okay” to run from the doctor yesterday I accepted the mild pain. Three minutes into the run the pain disappeared and I was able to focus on my form. I think my stride was a little unbalanced at first but I managed to pick up my pace without a problem.

I passed mile one a short distance after my known benchmark but it was close enough to think the GPS’s accuracy was in the ballpark. I covered the first mile in 9:27, mile 2 at 9:01 and the last half mile at an 8:50 pace. Those were my calculations based on careful retracing of my route on Gmaps. The 210 recorded my distance .07 miles (2.8%) less than that. I’ll be curious to see if the accuracy varies consistently. I’m hoping that an examination of the GPX file overlay on Google Earth will show where the 210’s GPS cut corners to end up short. Unless of course, it’s actually Gmaps that’s off…

AllSport GPS thinks I’m a slacker

I’m in taper mode as I move closer to Sunday’s race and I’m also experiencing some discomfort with the outside toes on both feet. I decided that I would get a run in today but take it easier than I normally would. I brought along my iPhone and selected the AllSport GPS app to track my run and took the Garmin 50 along as well. I now have five GPS apps on the iPhone: Allsport and MotionX (paid apps) plus iMapMyRun, Run Keeper Free and RunGypsy (free apps) and they all capture data about run speed and distance. What separates these apps is what else they track and how they report data. The free apps generally give you pace and distance information and some rudimentary resources to store that data. The paid apps have lots of features, MotionX really provides a lot of utilities for the running experience including compass, mapping and music integration. AllSport generates an excellent report that shows many metrics including elevation (as does MotionX) and both paid apps export KMZ and GPX files that overlay on Google Earth.

The thing that these apps all have in common (though I have not yet tried RunGypsy) is a dependence on the iPhone’s GPS service which has proven lacking. Each time I have captured a run with one of these apps I’ve seen differences between what’s reported and what was actually run. My baseline is Google Earth where I can trace my route to the inch and compare it to the route created by the GPS apps. This morning I verified on Google that I covered 2.15 miles and the Garmin confirmed that. The AllSport app reported that I ran 1.98 miles and I can understand why after reviewing the route it displayed. There seemed to be some weak links from the signal (that were shown as yellow lines on the map) and the lines veered off the road enough to explain the shorter distance. What puzzles me is AllSport’s insistence that I rested for 7:17 of my run.

Now I know I wasn’t pushing too hard today (my actual pace was 9:39) but I don’t recall resting during the run. It’s not clear if that was a result of a weak signal or if AllSport was judging me for not picking up the pace (yes, I’m kidding). I sent them a note asking about it and I expect that I’ll hear back. To their credit they’ve been good about responding to my questions. I like this app a lot but I want to rely on it and at this point I don’t think I can. I’ll try to use it on Sunday so I can capture the route but I’ll have my Garmin 50 along to keep things honest.