Sunday, March 8, 2009

Garmin 50 - illogically lovable

A number of years ago, on vacation in Paris, my wife and I were completely puzzled by the challenge of crossing the street to visit the Arc d'Triomphe. If you're not familiar with its location, the building sits in the middle of a traffic circle off the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It was clear that crossing that traffic would lead to instant death by Renault and yet we saw a number of people milling around the Arc. After some searching we saw a small sign indicating an underground passage that led to the center. It certainly wasn't obvious to us but in retrospect it made perfect sense.

The Garmin 50 reminds me very much of that. Before the Garmin I used the Nike+ Sportband which had less complexity but also less features. It was simple to set up and use, basically it had two buttons that controlled everything and good documentation to show you which ones to push. The Garmin has four buttons that seem to do different things based upon the mode of the watch that can be switched between time, training, interval timing and history. The simple idea of using it as a stopwatch took me almost three weeks to master. The process to do this is simple but the lack of instruction in the manual made it maddeningly difficult. As I use the watch I'm beginning to better understand how the sequence of buttons makes things work. It's still a little annoying when the display says "press OK" when it really means "press the View button" but now, after experimentation, I know to do this.

Of course now that I have gained some comfort with its operation I am thrilled with the data it collects and presents. The combination of pulse rate, speed, cadence, time and distance (accurate to about .03 miles now that I've figured out how to calibrate it) and the Garmin Connect website (that collects and reports the information) are really good. There are dozens of things I'd do differently in terms of functionality and user interface but in the end, it works. However I do wish it calculated pace on the watch, not just speed in MPH.

This morning I ran 4.06 miles at about 9:05/mile which didn't make my target of staying under 9 minutes per mile, but I fully accept it as great progress. It was about 43 degrees when I went out for my run. I only wore a base layer plus a long sleeve technical jersey under a lightweight windbreaker. I was comfortable throughout most of the run but I got very hot near the end. I didn't make either my speed or distance (8 total miles) goals for this weekend but I am very happy with what I've accomplished.

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