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A Regular Runner Reviews the Garmin Forerunner 305

May 21, 2011 4 comments

Last December, I finally bought the Garmin Forerunner 305 because it was heavily discounted on Amazon.com and the price was low enough I decided to finally take the plunge and get a GPS watch for running.

In high school, I drove around in the family Camry to gauge distances for my various running loops and then I timed my run with a basic wrist watch with some stop watch functions.

In college, um, same deal, only around the college town where I lived.

Then in 2006 Nike announced their Nike+ kit — basically a foot pod you put into your Nike running shoe and a receiver you plugged into your iPod Nano.  You did a couple of calibration laps at the local high school track so the system could learn the length of your stride, etc.

I LOVED the Nike+ system.  The website was awesome — so many stats!  and you could set goals!  and compete against other runners in races even if you lived in different parts of the world!  You could even use training programs for building up to certain types of races.  I was blown away by all of the information I was able to gather and evaluate.  How much did I run last month?  The month before?  This year?

But by the fall of 2010, I had hit two problems, one bigger than the other:

The smaller problem was simple: I had to get a new sensor because my old one had died and I didn’t have a lot of free time to get down to the track to calibrate it.  This was my fourth sensor in four years, so I was used to the process, but I just didn’t have time right then to hit the track… and before I knew it, weeks had gone by.  (They say most people can run with the default calibration, but I found it was off by about .15 per mile for me.  So on a 10 mile run, it would ring up 1.5 miles short!)

The larger problem was something I couldn’t avoid just by getting up early on a Sunday and making some time: the website for the Nike+ had been redesigned and it was INSANELY slow for me.  It would take MINUTES to load a single page.  I tried different browsers and even different computers.  The Flash interface was just excruciatingly slow.  Nike had actually found a way to make running NOT fun because the idea of having to deal with that website was torture.

This problem was getting worse and worse and I had been looking at the Garmin Forerunner line for nearly a year, but I didn’t want to spend $399 on something I still wasn’t sure about, but I knew I had to do something.  So when the Garmin Forerunner 305 dropped to $130 at Amazon, I jumped.

So do I like the Garmin Forerunner 305?
Yes, I do.  A lot.  It’s accurate and it’s easy to operate.  I would highly recommend it for any runner of any experience level.

PROS:
It’s very accurate.

I’ve never lost my satellite signal.

I don’t need a lot of data — just time and distance — so the Garmin Forerunner 305 has MORE than enough data features for me.  I would think it’s perfect for the beginning runner and even experienced runners.

The battery seems to stay charged for a good, long time when in use.  Maybe 6 hours?

CONS:
There are some downsides to Garmin Forerunner 305 and the Garmin Connect website software, but nothing that stops me from enjoying my run.

The watch is kind of heavy.  No one will ever mistake it for a common sports watch, but I knew that when I ordered it.

The software doesn’t do nearly as many things as the old Nike+ website did before it got as slow as molasses.

Sometimes the Garmin Forerunner 305 takes 2 minutes to find the satellite.  I’ve learned to turn the watch on and sit it in a window while I stretch and prepare for my run.  By the time I’m ready to go, the watch has found the satellite and there’s no delay when I step outside!

I do wish the website was more like the original Nike+ site.  There are so many features I seriously miss.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Even with the small downsides, I’m grateful I never have to drive to the track to calibrate this watch and I know eventually there will be a thinner/lighter version in my price range.

Hopefully they’ll improve the website sooner than later, stealing some features from the Nike+ website — but not the slowness.  That they can leave for Nike.

Why I Sadly No Longer Use Nike+ and Have Switched to Garmin

March 4, 2011 5 comments

Those of you who have been around this blog for a while (and my deepest thanks goes out to you for your support!) know that I used to post about the Nike+ system a lot.  I’ve always been a little compulsive about logging my time and distance information when I’m actively running, but Nike+ took this to a whole new level!

Unfortunately, as much as I liked the idea of the Nike+ system, I stopped using it more than a year ago because the flash-based webpages were just taking FOREVER to load.  I’d go to upload a new run, or check out my stats for the month, and it would take several minutes for each page to load — if they ever did load.

In the end, this was actually a small contributing factor in my running decline.  It wasn’t close to being the biggest factor, but not being able to monitor my progress the way I had been was a real motivation killer.

I think Nike would want the Nike+ website and their software to be as fast as possible and easy to use as possible, especially considering they teamed Nike+ up with the Apple iPod Nano and Apple has set the bar pretty high when it comes to easy to use software and electronics, but for some reason this has been a low priority for them.

If you want to see some really frustrated customers, visit the Nike+ section of the Get Satisfaction website. They’ve pruned a lot of the older threads — there was one with thousands of upset customers who hated how slow the site was, if I remember correctly — but you can still get a feel for the problems.

In one of the now-deleted threads, a bunch of people suggested the best way to fix the problem was simple: buy a Garmin Forerunner and stop using the Nike system all together.

I agonized over the decision for a long time — it’s a lot money for me — but then at Christmas I noticed Amazon was selling the Garmin Forerunner 305 — which is GPS based and had been highly recommended to me by several runners — for less than $140… so I finally took the plunge and bought one!

I’ve now been using it for four months, and I definitely have some thoughts of what works and what doesn’t work with this watch and Garmin’s website.  In another post on another day, I’ll discuss the pros and the cons.

Stay tuned, and keep running!

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