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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!

Running Inspiration on YouTube

February 10, 2010 2 comments

I obviously haven’t had much time to post lately, or to run, unfortunately, but I’m trying to get back in the running groove and I thought it might be nice to post a bunch of videos from YouTube that I think are nice and inspirational toward that goal.  Most are courtesy of Nike, but there is also a long Mizuno Running Ad in here, too.  If you have some favs that I’ve missed, post a link in the comments!

Categories: Running Tags: , ,

Starting to Run Again: Challenging the Problematic Nike+ Challenges

July 6, 2009 3 comments

Now that I’ve started running again on a semi-regular basis, I know it’ll be at least 6 months before I could possibly be in marathon shape.  I need to lose a good amount of weight that has snuck back on over the last two years, and I’m basically starting from scratch with my running.  If I could run 1 or 2 miles every day this month, it would be a huge accomplishment and put me back on track to be where I want to be in the fall.  (I logged a couple of 20 mile runs in the fall of 2007 and want to do it again this year.)

So all of this said, I decided to give the “challenges” section of the Nike+ website a try.  It’s a great concept.  Basically, you can enter into competition or “virtual races” against other runners all over the world via the website and your Nike+ stats.  You don’t need to be in the same place or even run at the same time of day.  There is a start date and an end date for the competition and joining is free.

Here are some common competitions:

“Run 40 Miles in July!” = try to run a total of at least 40 miles

“4th of July 5K” = go out and run your own 5K on 7/4/09

“Run Every Day and Lose Weight” = a group of people trying to get in better shape

I believe, if you win, you get a virtual trophy for your Nike+ account.  You can even create your own competition if you don’t see one you like.  For example, if you wanted, you could create a “Run 40 Miles in 40 Days (Must Have Been Born Before 1940)”.  So your group should only have people over the age of 69.

Here’s the problem:

I joined several challenges for low milage runners (those who are overweight, starting out, older, etc) since it’s going to be a while until I can log more than 1 or 2 miles a day at the most.  I figured some kind of challenge — actually running “against” and “with” other people — would be a great motivator.

Sounds simple, right?

Except that every challenge I joined was “over” before it started.  Every single challenge had at least one person who was logging 10 or more miles a day.  No matter what the requirements to join were (old, slow, fat, no more than 10 miles per week currently, etc), there are people joining just for the “easy win”, which is pretty crappy if you ask me.

One challenge has a GREAT leader who is kicking those “cheaters” out left and right, but none of the other groups do, so it kind of defeats the purpose.  If there’s no chance of winning, doesn’t that yank away the virtual carrot we were chasing?

This is something the creators of the challenges should definitely take more seriously, especially in the beginner and low milage groups where people need every motivation they can get.

Obsessing About Distance and Time

April 2, 2009 Leave a comment

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the Nike Plus system for my iPod Nano.  Even when I was just running around the block in high school (1/2 mile loop), I kept track of the time and distance.  It didn’t feel right not knowing how far or how long I had run.

So when my wife bought me an iPod Nano and the Nike+ kit for my 28th birthday, it was quite a revelation.  The year before I had started using an iPod Shuffle, but before that I was still running to mix tapes in my Walkman.

My first couple of runs before I calibrated the distance on the iPod’s settings were WAY off.  Luckily, we have a good track just down the road, so I was able to get the iPod calibrated to my running stride, and it’s been fairly accurate since then. If you run a lot faster or a lot slower than normal, it’s definitely going to be off, so I still tend to run the routes I measured before I had the iPod, just to have a better idea of how accurate it is.

I’m not “hardcore” about running exactly the “right” distance, but I am very obsessive about knowing how far I ran and how long it took. I cannot imagine going out for a run with no way to judge the time and the distance!

For those who don’t know, you have to attach a little white receiver to your iPod Nano for the system to work properly.  I’ve heard the new iPod Touch has this receiver built right into the system, which means you’re not limited in your select of cases and armbands to hold the iPod.  (Because the receiver stuck out of the bottom of the Nano, several very cool cases are not an option.)  If the next generation of Nano has the receiver built right in, I’ll upgrade in a heartbeat.

Actually, I’m kind of surprised Apple and Nike haven’t produced a “special edition” iPod Nano exclusively for Nike+ that has a receiver built into it and maybe a special color scheme.  They could charge $30 more, since that’s what the receiver costs separately right now, and I bet they’d sell a ton of them.

Anyone know someone who works in Nike or Apple’s product development offices?  🙂

Getting back into the running grove

November 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Yesterday was a perfect day for running.  Cool (40 degrees F), clear, no wind.

So I went out for a four mile run — part of my prep work for my official marathon training program that I’ll commence in December — and ended up running seven miles instead.  I started by running through the old neighborhood as planned, but when I reached the intersection near the house where I grew up, I felt great and I knew I had more miles in me if I wanted to push myself further.

I changed my plan and headed over to the high school and elementary school, around their large parking lots, and then through another neighborhood and up to the old cemetery, which is always a nice run, especially this time of year.

I have a hundred different routes stored away inside my head — which is funny considering how shoddy my memory usually is — and I can tell you the best way to add half a mile or subtract 2/10ths of a mile between where you are in the neighborhood and where you want to go.

For example, if I’m at the old 7/11 on the far side of the neighborhood I grew-up running in, it’s exactly 2 miles back to my current house — but I can add another quarter mile to that by turning left and going around the new grocery store, and I can subtract 3/10ths of a mile by taking a short cut to the local pub near the high school.

I always like to finish right around a mile marker, so this knowledge comes in handy.  With my Nike+ set-up there’s really no reason to try to end right on a mile, but when I was in high school and college I was just using the mix tape in my Walkman (I knew the length of every song, so when I got to “Hey Jealousy” by Gin Blossoms, I was 30 minutes into my run, for example) and my stop watch.  Ending right on a mile made it much easier to figure out what I was averaging per mile.  Old habits die hard.

By the time I got home yesterday, I was dogging it, but I felt great — like old times.  And I knew I was officially getting back into the groove when, an hour later, I was wishing I could go back out for another run.  I had set my Nike+ system to count down to 4 miles, so every mile after that, it told me I had gone another mile past my goal — a nice motivator.

Probably the only problem with Nike+, in my experience, is that I had to reset my iPod Nano to the factory settings a few months ago because Paula Radcliffe was congratulating me on running “another 500 km” after every single run.  This is a well documented problem with the Nike+, but Nike claims it is a hardware problem and not a software issue, which is pretty disappointing.  Here’s a clip of Paula promoting Nike:

And here’s “Hey Jealousy” by Gin Blossoms:

If YouTube says the Gin Blossoms video has been removed, try the direct link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxQhx4t1FmE

Until next time, thanks for reading.

A Tip For Anyone Whose iPod Is Possessed and Playing Music All On Its Own

October 10, 2008 3 comments

Here is a tip for anyone who can’t figure out why your iPod is possessed and playing music all by itself when you’re not around and when the headphones aren’t plugged in, etc.  This had been happening to mine for a couple of months, draining the battery overnight, and generally proving to be a real pain.  I finally got around to Googling the problem last week and I wanted to post the answer I found in case anyone else has the same issue.

Somehow the alarm function got turned on, so every night the iPod just started playing music at midnight.

This is easy to fix:

1) Go To EXTRAS
2) Go To CLOCK
3) Select Your Time Zone, which should be highlighted by default
4) Go to ALARM CLOCK
5) Turn the alarm OFF if you’re not using it

That should do the trick for you if you’re having the same problem I was.  Good luck!

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