Putting the Garmin FR 35 to the test

First time with the FR 35

Today’s run (street): 5.2 miles

It’s October and I’m loving the cooler weather. But I wasn’t loving the light rain that greeted me when I stepped outside for today’s run. I considered staying inside and running on the treadmill, but I really wanted to see how my new Garmin performed. I learned later that the FR35 will actually track my distance indoors using its built in accelerometer. Better yet, no foot pod is needed, although the pod may provide a little extra performance data.

The 57° air felt chilly when I stepped outside. I decided to add a lightweight rain jacket that helped keep me dry, but I started heating up after a couple of miles. Had I run without the jacket I may have clipped a few seconds off my pace. Even with that, today’s run was the second fastest pace I’ve held since February.

It took almost five minutes to acquire a signal on the Garmin, probably due to the cloudy and raining conditions. I had hoped that would improve with the new watch. Perhaps it will on clearer days. Despite the rough weather, I encountered a number of runners and walkers within the first few minutes. My running felt strong and I looked at my watch to see my progress. It was then that I realized that I’d set up the display to show heart rate, running time and pace, but not distance.

That was frustrating, but I was able to estimate how far I’d run by dividing elapsed time by pace in my head. The Garmin connects to my phone through Bluetooth and acts as an activity tracker. When I got home, I discovered that my run data, along with all my steps, had been automatically uploaded to the Garmin Connect app on my phone. Even without the foot pod, I still got cadence and average stride length along with pace, elevation, heart rate, route map and a few other metrics.

I’m very happy that fall is happening and I’m excited that Adventure Girl will be coming for a visit in a couple of weeks. We’re going to run the Old Croton Aqueduct trail near my current office. I haven’t run that trail since AG and I took the train from our office in NYC to Irvington seven years ago.

Garmin FR 35: I never saw it coming

Welcome back data

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles

This afternoon the fine folks at UPS dropped off a package at my house. I opened the box and saw that it contained a Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS watch. I really wanted the FR35 to replace my FR210 that I lost on the Bethpage trail a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly, I never ordered the watch. It wasn’t until my wife told me that my friend and fellow Runsketeer KWL had sent it. I couldn’t believe it, but I was very excited.

One of the reasons KWL wanted me to have the watch was to encourage me to focus again on my performance when I run. The FR35 has a lot of tracking features including an optical heart rate monitor that obviates the need for a chest strap. I prefer to run by heart rate/zone rather than pace and I’ll be able to do that easily. It also works as an activity monitor. I didn’t realize that until it rudely beeped at me and said “Move!” on the display.

I wish I had this watch when I went out this morning on my run. Instead, I ran with my stopwatch. That was fine, but I missed being able to track time and distance. All the same, the stopwatch did give me some useful feedback. I generally run the same route every Friday and knew exactly where I’d hit the one mile mark. Although my stopwatch was securely attached to my SPIbelt, I was able to catch a glimpse of the elapsed time. I saw that I ran the first mile 30 seconds faster than my most recent (improving) pace.

Going forward, my challenge will be choosing to push performance rather than enjoying the experience of a free form run. Today’s conditions were cool and fairly dry and my running felt easy. I ran faster than I have in many months but it didn’t feel hard. It felt great. I can push even harder and run even faster, but I don’t know how far to go with that. I’m going to target 85% max HR tomorrow and see how that feels. If it feels okay, maybe a little speed will be worth the extra effort.

The Runsketeers take on the trails!

TPP, brat (aka, SIOR), ER, KWL

Today’s run (Dirty Sock route: Belmont Lake): 6.5 miles

Adventure called and the Runsketeers responded this morning with a loop or two (or three) around Belmont Lake. KWL, SIOR, TPP and I planned to meet around 7:00 AM. I was the laggard of the bunch as they were all hanging out together by the time I arrived. I tried to explain the Dirty Sock course — how it starts at the western trail head and branches off toward Southards Pond before dipping south to the eastern exit. After getting a collective, “what the hell are you talking about?” look from my companions, I suggested they just follow the trail as best as they could.

We began to walk to our starting point and bossy SIOR said, “Can we start running now?” So we did. Doing that, as well as running back to the western trail head when I finished, accounted for my additional third of a mile on top of running the full Dirty Sock route. We ran together at the start and then TPP and SIOR picked up the pace and went on ahead. KWL stayed back with me and we ran together and chatted until we reached Belmont Lake.

While KWL turned on the burners, I kept my moderate pace and circled the lake. About halfway around, I ran into SIOR and TPP who were running the lake clockwise. I soon saw KWL coming back on his way to catch up with the others. I again saw the three of them near the end of my loop. TPP ended up doing two lake loops and the others went around for a third time.

I am officially the least popular Runsketeer

The Dirty Sock route can be challenging when the path is wet and the humidity is off the charts. Neither was the case today. Just in case, I’d packed my gel flask with a mix of water and a Roctane Expresso gel. I haven’t used gels in over a year, so the one I had was well past its expiration date. I didn’t realize that until I took my first swig and got a mouthful of coffee flavored grit. I finished it nonetheless.

I think the gel helped, because I felt a bit more energetic after ingesting it. Curiously, I detected an aftertaste that reminded me of alcohol and I wondered if the gel had fermented in its pack. Probably not, because a little alcohol goes a long way with me and I didn’t feel any related effects. However, I did start to crave pizza.

I ran along the southern end of Southards Pond and went south for the last half mile of the route. This last section used to frustrate me when I did the Dirty Sock 10K because the trail seemed to go on forever. The greatest moment of that race was when I started to hear Terry Bisogno announcing runners as they crossed the finish line. I didn’t get that today, but when I came around the final bend and saw the emerald green field ahead of me, I was pretty darn happy.

My route today

I extended my run to our starting location and waited of the others who were looking to cover more miles than me today. I ended up going over to the playground to get some shade and a minute later TPP appeared. We found a shady area close to where we’d see KWL and SIOR when they exited the woods. TPP and I caught up a little before our buddies arrived.

As tradition dictates, we headed to the closest Starbucks which had a very comfy seating section. After receiving gifts of coffee and pumpkin bread from SIOR and TPP respectively, the four of us recapped our run. Three of the four of us went over the moon about KWL’s Apple Watch Sport that he was wearing. I am defiantly anti-Apple, and didn’t join in that love fest. However, KWL did manage to take a remote selfie using his watch to control SIOR’s iPhone, which was a pretty neat trick.

It was a great run for all of us and I was excited to share one of my favorite running locations with my best running buds. KWL is officially our d’Artagnan (although that honor is shared with TPP’s JC). I look forward to more runs with these guys. I may even do Cow Harbor after all.

Beating expectations

It was much warmer today than yesterday so I had no issues with the cold. The wind from the west was strong and the combination of wind plus hills plus 42 degree heat made for a rigorous run. Yesterday I Gmapped my run only to discover that my Sportband was off by 2% and I had actually run almost 4.5 miles, achieving a 9:13 average pace. I Gmapped today’s run and saw that it was off by almost 3% of the actual distance. I’m pleased that I exceeded my weekend goal of 8 miles in two runs. I may go to the track later with my daughter who wants to run again. I have not been to the track since discovering it covered by ice and snow but the warmer weather should have cleared that by now.

After discovering that the Sportband was not only refusing to upload any runs to the Nike+ site and was increasingly off calibration I decided to buy a Garmin 50 with HRM and foot pod. The Garmin 50 does not use GPS, the foot pod works in a similar way that the Nike+ system works using RFID. I’ve had readers tell me that the Garmin 50 works pretty well and I’ve read similar observations on websites. The reason I didn’t get a GPS enabled watch is that the Garmin 305 is just too bulky and the 405 (which is a great running watch) costs $400 including the HRM and foot pod.

So until I get the 50 I’ll use the Sportband to record elapsed time and distance and adjust for the Sportband’s inaccuracy. I hope to have the Garmin by next weekend. The only issue with the Garmin is that the software does not work on a Mac so I’ll need to use my wife’s laptop that runs Vista (ugh) or our upstairs XP machine. No matter, I’m excited about this decision and I will report on my experience soon enough.

When bad things happen to good elliptical machines

I’ve talked before about how the elliptical workout complements running and I have been very happy with my machine, the BH Fitness X1. The only issue I have with the unit is that its heart rate monitor has been completely inaccurate. The people at Fitness Showrooms have been responsive to my complaints and ordered a replacement unit that was installed yesterday. I was very excited to use the unit today but was ultimately disappointed to see that the service tech installed the HRM and display unit off center so that the display is very difficult to read while in use. Well, at least that would be fixable with some adjustments. I was further disappointed when I started using the machine only to see the starting pulse at 175 and the HRM reading out between 190 and 43 throughout my workout. The readings (which did not in any way tie to my level of exertion) jumped around so much it was almost like the monitor was generating random numbers.
I’ve asked the supplier for a modest refund so I can buy a watch with a built in heart monitor. I’ll wait to hear how they respond. In the meantime I’m open to suggestions on who has the best HRM watch for under $100.

Nike+ Sportband recall

I am currently on my third Nike+ Sportband. My first two became unusable after the display failed. My current Sportband is beginning to corrode the same way. Yesterday I saw an article online that said Nike was doing a voluntary recall of the Sportbands due to display failure. It’s really too bad that they introduced a product with such a bad flaw. I rely on the Sportband because it tracks distance whether I run indoors or out. I may end up getting a Garmin Forerunner 405 or Polar RS800 watch with GPS if my Sportband fails again. These are good watches but they are much more expensive than the Nike+ Sportband. Also, unless you invest in the footpod option (on the Garmin) you can only track outdoor runs.