April 29, 2008

Garmin 405 review video

Today I'm turning geek again - I took about 20 minutes to record and edit the video review of the Garmin 405. I compared the watch size to Polar S625X, RS800 and Suunto T6. Let me know what you think and if you want to know more about any of the other features I did not cover.

April 27, 2008

Garmin 405 first impressions


Yesterday during the race expo I got the new Garmin 405 including the HR belt. I was thinking about it twice, but since they had them at the expo I had to get my hands on one. So far I ran only once with the unit and as a matter of fact it was my first A-race of the season. The Garmin watch really helped me a lot to keep even splits during the half marathon as you can see on Garmin Connect record. I'm not yet ready to do a full review of the watch since I can not really judge it after just one run. But here are few observations I made so far.

The good

  • The form factor of this new watch is just great. It looks like watch, is small as a watch and still has the Garmin GPS capabilities built in. It also looks good - understated design - not much showing while in the power save mode.
  • Navigation in the menu is very easy and using the bezel of the watch is very intuitive. Watch has only 2 buttons and 4 touch areas on the bezel. Navigation and access to the menu is very easy.
  • The fit is great - it snugly fits around the wrist and is very easy on the hand even in long races (I had it on my right arm where I usually do not have a watch).
  • The GPS signal gets picked up very fast (compared to regular car GPS units or the Polar GPS sensor that I use).
  • The watch is little bigger than the Polar RS800, but not much bigger. It feels very sturdy - something like Suunto T6 or Polar S625X. With the RS800 I sometimes fear that the watch is to fragile.
  • The ANT connection to the computer is in one word amazing. When I got home I walked into my office and the computer picked-up the activity recording and transferred it to the Garmin Training Center and Garmin Connect. Without me even logging onto the machine (it was locked from last night).
  • Garmin apparently built in capabilities to program guided workouts - seems very similar to RS800. I have not used it yet, but from the pre-delivered workouts it looks very easy to build the workout and execute it.
  • According to the manual the 405 can calibrate foot pod based on the GPS data during the run. Something Suunto and Polar users were asking for their manufacturers. I'm not sure how good it is as I do not have foot pod to test it.
  • The watch lets you setup virtual partner which was what kept me on pace today during the race.
  • The accuracy of the watch is very good - all the splits came within a meter or two of the official race mile markers. The only exception was the mile 10 where I was about 20 meters behind the marker when the lap got recorded. I think it may have been the tree cover or just misplaced mile marker. In any case I did not seem to lose the GPS signal even while running under the trees. I did not check the accuracy for obvious reasons, but I may do that on one of the training runs.
  • Battery life is rated as 8 hours of running with GPS on and about 2 weeks in power safe mode. I can only tell you that after being fully charged last night I used the watch for the half marathon, transfer to the computer and it shows 80% battery life left. I also left the default settings of 55% brightness and beeping of the buttons, bezel and while running.

Stuff that can be annoying to some people

  • The bezel is extremely touch sensitive. One needs to remember to lock it when you put your shirt over the watch otherwise it may lead to some unwanted actions on the watch. Like switching on the GPS when you are indoors. But learning to press the two buttons to lock the bezel is very quick. I had the watch only 12 hours and knew what to do.
  • At this point the 405 is not supported on Mac, but I assume that will get corrected over time. I do not mind as I use PC for my workout recording, but some Mac zealots may find it disturbing.
  • I did not find anything that I would not like about the watch. I actually had to think long time to come up with the two above items. But hey I used it only for less than 24 hours so there may be things that pop-up later. I'll post them here.

OK that is all I could come up with after quick read of the manual, quick setup of the watch and one run with it. Let me know what you want to know for the review so I can look into it before I post again.

Few pictures from the race finish

My lovely wife took some great pictures of the last stages of the race. I have mentioned that on the way up to the stadium I had few people pass me. These images show how I re-passed them on the last 3/4 of a track before the finish. I really wanted to get the 1:38:00 and without the final sprint I would not have it. So here you go. Enjoy.

Last lap after 13 miles - passing first person

Getting ready to pass the big group

I'm the little yellow hat behind the group

Chasing the last person that passed me up-hill to the stadium

Eventually I chased him down

Finish - few seconds to spare to 1:38

Lehigh Valley Half Marathon 2008

As I have announced earlier my first A race was the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. This year the plan was to run sub-1:40 race (9 minutes and 50 seconds improvement over 2007). The day started quite well - early morning alarm at 6 am, quick breakfast and final preparations for the race. Boring things like water for fuel belt, gel packs, iPod, headphones, etc. The traffic around the race parking was getting heavy when I got there, but I was just on time to meet with the pace group in the gym. I met quite a few very nice people and we had good chat about the race plans, strategy and such. Then it was time to get lined up in our corral. I followed the 1:40 pace group leader with the plan to stick with the group if I did not feel well and break away at some point around 7 miles if I felt good. I was much more in the front of the pack than last year which made it easier especially on mile 1 that can get quite busy as everyone feels like breaking world speed records while they still have 12 more miles to go. Oh well.

The siren went off at 8:10, exactly as planned, and off we went down hill on mile 1. It is pretty nice run down hill in Allentown streets and then down to the park near a little man made lake. Everyone was flying, but I stuck with my planned pace. I was passing 1 mile clock at around 7:20 which was good. I did not want to go any faster than that. Next mile was up and down a little until we reached the ML King Blvd. Then the race is pretty much flat until about a mile 6. I tried to keep even splits as much as I could and I kept hydrating and eating gel packs every 20-25 minutes. Last year was definitely a lesson about nutrition during the race and I did not want to get dehydrated or bonk. The strategy worked very well and since I was carrying my own water I did not need to slow down through the aid stations. Mile 7 is probably the biggest hill on the course as you need to climb up to the Lehigh Valley Parkway and then run the parkway track. I slowed down a bit on the uphill, but then let it go down the hill. It is pretty good strategy and I have few people pass me on the way up, but I re-pass them on the other side (along with their friends). The run through the park was very nice and I did not even mind the occasional uphill. At mile 10 split I was right on the money for the secret target of 1:38. I started laboring a bit on mile 11. But on mile 12 I got new legs and was able to even pick the pace up a bit. I passed the mile 12 split few seconds behind, but then I picked up the pace even more and kept pushing it hard until the little up-hill to the stadium. This race is great it has stadium finish - what most people do not know is that it is 3/4 of a lap before the finish. So if you fly up that last hill you will hurt on that last lap (yeah that is self learned from last year). So I took it easy on the uphill - exactly 7 people passed me. When I got onto the track in the stadium I regained my composure after the last hill and then sped-up. According to Garmin I did the last 3/4 lap in under 6:00 pace which is more than good. According to preliminary results posted during the race I finished in 1:37:55 and I'm very happy about it.

During this race I used the new Garmin 405 which proved to be more reliable than the Polar RS800 (that unfortunately did not pick-up the S3 sensor signal during the whole race and I had to go by the new watch - another reason to have backup for everything). If you are interested in the details of the race look at the Garmin Connect site for the details. I'll be putting together a short review of the Garmin 405 soon. I just want to play with it little more to be able to provide more details. Until then just one note - it is very good monitor and proved to be my new best running buddy today.

April 10, 2008

Short update: still alive and training

Although from the blog pages it does not seem like it I'm still alive and training. Only the work load in the office picked-up over the past few months and I do not have as much time to write. It should get better over time, but probably not before the middle of this year. In the meantime I'm training for half marathon in late April and few triathlons (nothing longer than Oly) in June - Sept. Expect some race updates once I have the half marathon behind me in 2 weeks.