OK… I admit it.  I have become slightly addicted to stats.

There.  I said it… I feel better.

I used to be the guy that badmouthed (lovingly) all his runner buddies as he ran by them (with his trusty Timex Ironman watch) as they shuffled around and held their shiny, new Garmins to the up to the GPS gods so that they could be blessed with signal.  Without which, some of them seemed completely incapable of completing a workout.

But I, too, eventually drank the GPS Kool-aid.  I found the GPS world to be klunky, unreliable and more of an irritation than anything.  Dropped signal, poor battery life, hard to read and set up interfaces and mysteriously illusive satellites that could easily be spotted and locked on to in my basement but disappeared when I came out into the open skies.

I stuck with it though.  Part of my problem was a poor choice in GPS watches (the Timex GPS).  I also had to learn the lingo and get myself in the habit of planning ahead so that my device was 1.) Locked in and 2.) CHARGED.

I started to slowly learn how to milk useful information out of the data.  I could track times over the same course.  I could see improvement (or not…) over time.  I began to get my mind around things like cadence and power.  …and I liked it.

But over the last 6 months my watch has slowly started to fail.  The battery just won’t stay charged for more than an hour or so.  And since I am only going longer, this is the worst thing that could fail.  It also can no longer be submerged without fogging up completely and becoming unreadable.  So swim training is out.  Which means I can’t wear it for triathlons.

So with equal parts sadness and joy, I said good bye to my first GPS watch this weekend and… I upgraded.

I looked at a lot of different watches.  Garmin, Suunto, Timex… The whole lot.  I got overwhelmed and a bit nauseous and stepped back to look at what I wanted.  Then I made a list:

  • AT LEAST 15 hours of continuous battery life (gotta get me through that Ironman or hundo I’m never doing)
  • Easy to read (stupid 48 y/o eyes… nothing lasts anymore)
  • Easy to set up
  • Good software that DOES NOT cost extra (that was a stupid choice on the part of Timex) at least for the basics
  • Waterproof.  I need something I can swim with.  This eliminated some good watches.
  • Swim tracking.  Something that counts strokes and measures distance in the pool AND open water.
  • EASY to do multisports with.  Tracks different segments correctly (the Timex never did this right)
  • Altimeter accurate enough to figure out things like steep hills or stairs.  My old GPS tracked altitude but on a course that had steep hills, my distance was always different than everyone else.

rf-lgSo when I looked at what I wanted, the choice was easy.  The only watches that really do this are the Garmin 910 and 920.  Garmin LOVES the 920 ($500 for a watch?  Really? Does it come with a free entry to an IM?).  The 910 is last years model and except for a couple of new features I don’t really care about it does everything.  They are getting harder to find but a local shop had a couple of them left and they were on sale (bonus!).  As an extra bonus, all they had left were the models with the heart rate monitors.  I’ve never used a HRM before but have really wanted to try it.  And did I mention the “sale” made it about HALF the price of the 920?

All of this, plus the fact that I got a little extra jingle in my paycheck made for a pretty easy decision.  I went with the Garmin 910XT with HRM.  Granted… not the cool new toy all the big kids have, but I’m good with it.

My impressions so far…

Setup was easy.  Plug in the Ant+ USB stick, let it get set up, set the watch next to the computer and magic happens.  The watch was updated and added to Garmin Connect automatically.  The website is easy to understand and navigate (I had never seen  it before and was hopping around almost instantly).  I got all my info set up and customized the interface for my interests very quickly.  I put in some shoes, my bike and watched a few videos provided by the site to help with swim setup.  The basic things I want to see (total time, segment time, distance) on the watch are actually the defaults so there was no digging through confusingly named options.  The display is easy to read.  The vibrate alarm will take some getting used to.  Scared the crap out of me the first time it went off.  I knew it did it… I just wasn’t expecting it!

And… of course… it snowed about 6 inches last night and the temperature is a balmy 18 degrees, so the first run will have to wait.  Who knows… If I can get out of my driveway, maybe I’ll actually get back in the pool (for the first time in MONTHS) this afternoon.  Could be ugly…


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