Monday, May 11, 2009

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.


  1. To toggle between pace and speed:

    Hit MODE until you get to the training page. From there hold START/STOP until the screen reads "UNITS", from there use VIEW to scroll until the screen reads "PACE SHOW" then use the START/STOP button to toggle between pace and speed.

    You should makes sure that the footpod and watch are paired up, you can tell because there's a solid show icon in the watch when they are.

    Not sure about the other issues and the accuracy of the footpod there is no fix for I guess. I got my 50 a week ago (80 bucks on Amazon, partly based on your posts!) and I'm pretty happy with it so far. I don't think there is an ideal solution (especially if you want to track treadmill and outdoor runs), but from what I've read this is the closest (and affordable) one.

    Follow your blog all the time, good luck.

  2. show = shoe above...

  3. Thank you! I've run through that screen a few times but I have never seen that specific option. I've noticed that pushing the wrong combination of buttons in that mode often jumps me out of that cycle into Laps or Train. I'm going to try that. I have made sure the pod and watch are paired, that's what tipped me off that the battery needed changing. I really appreciate the guidance and I'm glad that you enjoy the posts.

  4. No problem at all. The manual is really awful and the online support even worse, took me a frustrating half hour just to get the settings page in training (you have to make sure that screen reads "00:00:00" by holding LAP/RESET and "unsaving" anything that may be there...I'm assuming the footpod works with the 305? That way I can upgrade later? Hopefull that's the case. Also would be very cool to be able to share with more than one user, I'm thinking if it's calibrated to my stride that won't work.

    I'm running my first 5k (well technically 5k+) June 11 at the Central Park JP Morgan Chase corporate challenge. I've followed your progress and its been a great inspiration. For what it's worth I live on the island too and meant to hit that Huntington 5k you blogged about just to get a sense of what a race is like, family obligations kept me away that day though.

  5. You should think about getting the Garmin Forerunner 305, no footpod needed and it maps your runs for you too. I haven't had any problems with satellire acquisition on cloudy days as long as you lay it on a flat surface and leave it still until its ready. The only problem for you would be treadmill runs but the treadmill readouts should cover that info no?

  6. Thanks again, I'm going to try that and see if I can restore my settings. That's a good question about the 305. I'd assume that the foot pods would be compatible unless the 305 isn't set up to receive RF transmissions.

    Glad to meet another LI runner. I hope you have a great time on June 11. I'll bet you will. The excitement of participating with a large field of runners is amazing. You might find yourself completing it faster than you thought you would because the other runners will help set the pace. Best of luck and please write and let me know how you did.


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