Garmin 50 – quirkiness just isn’t cutting it

My Garmin 50 is a quirky device. I had some initial trouble navigating its interface and getting it accurately calibrated. Once I mastered that (no thanks to the Garmin manual and online “help”) I was able to capture my run data and study different ways using Garmin Connect. After my prior frustrations with the Nike+ Sportband I thought I’d found a great and inexpensive alternative with the Garmin 50.

My trouble with the unit started about a month a ago when, after running close to a mile, I’d noticed that the Garmin was showing 0.00 miles traveled. A quick stop and restart seemed to fix that problem and it didn’t return again until the day of my 5K race. On that day I noticed that distance was not recording and I tried to reset the device as I ran but I quickly gave that up since I knew the race timing chip I was wearing would provide the essential data.

After that race it was clear that something was wrong with the Garmin. The interface on the watch had changed and there was no option for showing distance traveled. I replaced the battery in the foot pod and that allowed the watch to recognize that unit but the interface was showing different combinations of data than before. For example, the display used to prominently display elapsed time, speed, cadence, distance and heart rate with the distance constantly displayed below the bigger numbers. Since the battery change the speed metric has switched to pace (which is actually an improvement) and the constant is now time, not distance. I can get used to this but I don’t understand how to change it back. There’s no documentation whatsoever and I’ve tried every sequence of buttons on the watch to no avail.

The real issue is that the foot pod, which was accurate to 1/100th of a mile, is now off by a measurable amount. On Saturday it over-recorded by 4% and on Sunday it under recorded by 5%. Consequently I have needed to Gmap my runs to get my true pace. I could do the same thing with a stop watch. I’ve been thinking about a GPS running watch because having accurate data when running is important to me. Still, I fear that I’ll have trouble with satellite acquisition on cloudy days. I just wish there was an accurate and reliable tracking watch in the marketplace that didn’t have these flaws. In the meantime I can always rely on Gmaps and Google Earth to calculate my key metrics.