July 08, 2012
I have been a recreational runner / addict for much of my life (but more about that in a future post). Every serious runner needs a good running watch, and for my high school and college days, I had a classic Timex Ironman Triathlon watch, probably the most successful sports watch in history. Late in my law school days, my first Ironman watch died, and I upgraded to the then-cutting edge Ironman watch with "IndiGlo" backlighting. That watch lasted from roughly 1995 through 2010, seeing me through a marathon, dozens of other road races, and near daily runs with only the occasional battery replacement.
For a variety of reasons (primarily injuries, apathy, and a decision to stop running road races), I never got around to replacing my Ironman watch. But, I have continued to run, even as age, injuries, work, and family life have conspired to make my running habit less regular and less intense. Still, it felt weird not having a watch to track my pace as I ran.
Last Christmas, my sig other got me a new running watch, a Garmin Forerunner 405, a watch my brother has raved about for several years. Let's just say that technology has progressed a bit since my law school days. First and foremost, my Garmin has built-in GPS tracking capability, enabling the watch to give me precise distances run, along with elevation changes. Also, the GPS feature frees a runner from the boredom and strictures of adhering to a few set routes where the distance is known; instead, the runner can explore new routes and trails and simply consult the watch to determine distance run. The watch also calculates calories burned based on age, weight, and gender data entered by the runner. Runners can also use the watch to track actual versus planned pace of run, and to craft workouts. The watch also has an optional heart rate monitor feature (which I do not use).
But the best feature of my Garmin watch is that, after every few runs (or even every run), you can upload the detailed run data from your watch to your computer via a wireless USB antenna. Once the data from your watch is uploaded, Garmin exports the data to a personal fitness webpage where you can keep a complete record of all of your training runs and road races. Your personal Garmin webpage lets you view a detailed report for each running event, with interesting data such as your pace at any point on your route. Below is a report for a typical solo run on my standard "long route" which is roughly five miles long (depending on whether I remember to start my watch as I leave the driveway or shortly after, the route can vary from 4.9 to 5.1 miles on the precise Garmin GPS measurement). If you follow the "View Details" tab, you can see additional information, such as my "splits" (time and pace for each mile segment), elevation changes (this is a generally flat course with a long gradual slope throughout Mile 3 and a small hill near the end of Mile 4), and my "moving pace" (pace after factoring out pauses for street lights, dog misadventures, etc.).
The report above was for a pretty good running day—temperature in upper 50s, moderate humidity, light wind—call it an 8 out of 10 for running conditions. My runs during the heat wave over the past month have generally been at a much slower pace, usually around 9:00 to 9:30 minute/miles over this same course. Frankly, the high humidity is tougher for running than the heat, making it impossible for the body to keep cool, not to mention making it feel like there is no oxygen in the air. But my moving pace of 8:22 per mile in this report is probably a pretty good snapshot of my current running level during good weather conditions, and right now I would expect on most 10K (6.2 mile) courses to knock out pretty steady splits around 8:15 to 8:30 minute/miles. It's a far cry from my prime running days, but I have plenty of time for serious training before tackling a possible 5K road race during Mastodon and running the Vegas Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon with Santa Claus on my birthday (and probably during WPBT—scheduling details have not yet been released).
Below is the report from a typical run with Berkeley on the same long route, back when the weather was more suitable for boxer fitness training (depending on humidity, Berk can't run with me when the temperature is above 60-65F). Click on the "View Details" tab and you will see the detailed pace chart which reveals where in our route Berk read or sent "p-mail", took care of his "bizness", slowed to check out another dog, or waited with me to cross a street. Kind of fascinating what modern tech can do!
I love my Garmin watch, and certainly recommend the Garmin watch line to all serious runners. Similarly, the Timex Ironman watch line has also exploded into a myriad of Ironman watches, most with fancy new technology options such as GPS location, run pacing, training records, and heart rate monitoring. If you are a regular runner or biker who wants to make the most of your fitness training, you owe it to yourself to look into getting a good quality training watch.