Gear geeking

Okay, so I won’t tell you today about how I dropped my pants this past weekend – still waiting for Scott to send the pictures to accompany that story …

In the interim I’ll talk about being a running gear geek. If you’re not a runner, I apologize in advance but if you are a runner or a cyclist or a swimmer or anything other than a gym rat, you may find this interesting.

When I first started running I was a treadmill user, which made tracking my workouts easy. It’s all right there on the machine! So, running outside posed a new challenge: How to keep track of what I’m doing. Initially I would rely on mile markers at the running trails, and I wouldn’t pay too much attention to time. Or I would run on the road in my neighborhood and then go get in the car and drive the same path and track it on the odometer to see how far I’d gone. Very scientific, huh?

Well, when I got the iphone all that changed. Along with the phone was this great free app, mapmyrun. It was wonderful! Would tell me distance, time, my route, my average pace, etc. I could look at it later online and check out how great I was doing.

Two problems with this method: After about an hour, my phone would die. I was also using it to listen to music, so I’m sure that didn’t help. And the GPS wasn’t always entirely accurate. Sometimes this was obvious when I was looking at the map, that it had screwed up. But it became really apparent one day when I was running with Kevin, who had this great new GPS watch, and my little free app just couldn’t keep up …

Kevin’s great new GPS watch was the Garmin 405. And the more I ran with him and the more he told me how great it was, the more I wanted it. At first I was hesitant: Even though it was better than my iphone app, it certainly wasn’t free. However, the 405 was so much better. It recorded heart rate information, which results in more accurate calories burned. It recorded elevation. Best pace, average pace, average moving pace, splits … It even has a great web site where you can really check out your workouts. Here’s an example, from my hike this past weekend.

The downfalls: the 405 has this great “touch” bezel that really isn’t so great. In fact, when I would get sweaty it would get all wonky. Not too big of a deal – I could lock the bezel in place, and it would fix the issue. It only slightly annoyed me that I had to lock it in place in order to get it to work correctly.

As far as the battery goes, I would charge it up between workouts and all was well. It even lasted with a good 20% left or so after my marathon. And since I’ll never run longer than a marathon, I’m good, right?

Well, not quite. I have taken it hiking 3 times this year and the battery failed me two of the times. (the other time, we ended up passing back by the car on the way to the next trail so I charged the battery for a few minutes.)

After I bought the 405, Garmin came out with a new GPS watch: the 310XT. It allows to switch between workouts better, it is waterproof for swimming workouts, and it’s generally an upgraded version of their previous watches. Kevin got one immediately and loves it. I was tempted but not yet sure that I needed to ditch the 405 … until I took it hiking with him and my watch died before we were even halfway through, and Kevin’s lasted the entire time. On the top of Mount Mitchell, I decided officially that I would be getting the 310XT.

This past weekend, Jeff and Scott and I went backpacking and Scott had his 310XT. I told him before we even left that we’d be using his watch over mine, since mine would die. I paused my watch every time we would take rest breaks to try to save battery, and sometimes I’d forget to restart it. And of course, my battery died halfway through Sunday’s hike.

One of the things I absolutely love about REI is that they guarantee all of their products. I try to use this return policy sparingly; I do not want to take advantage of it. And because the bezel and the battery had been problems from the beginning, I felt justified in taking it back and exchanging it for the 310. I took my watch back yesterday, with only a slight nostalgia about saying goodbye to it … me and that watch have seen some great times …

Unfortunately, REI didn’t have the 310XT. They could order it for me but it would take 7-10 days. No sir, I need that watch pronto! Luckily TrySports has it in stock (I called them from REI), so I’ll be going by there today to get it. It won’t be charged by my run this evening, so I’ll be going old school with mapmyrun.

I mean, the run doesn’t count unless you have proof at the end of it to upload to the Internet and share with all your friends, right? Right?