Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gearing Up My Garmin

"It will change the way you run." That's what a woman told me about her Garmin Forerunner 305 as we waited to meet up with family members after December's California International Marathon in Sacramento. And that was just the news I needed to hear since I had already requested the 305 as my Christmas gift from my parents and knew it would be waiting under the Christmas tree in a few weeks thanks to a crazy discount and rebate at Costco.

It was my last race of the year, last chance to qualify for the 2009 Boston Marathon (I failed there), and a last-ditch effort to make it through all 26.2 miles after suffering what I like to call body-breakdown in my last few weeks of training. And after all the tribulations I dealt with leading up to the race, the final one of not knowing if I'd even be able to last past 10 miles before pain shot through my hip and my right foot cramped to the point of barely being able to walk, I needed any saving grace to get my running in gear come next season. With Garmins dotting the course--I spotted them on numerous runners as I was passed or I passed back and could hear their incessant beeps throughout the race--I figured these speed demons were onto something. After all, this marathon is known for sending a large crowd to the Boston Marathon each year: Among the 2008 Boston Athletic Association statistics, CIM "ranked in the top five marathons who send the most number of qualifiers to Boston."

While I've been putting it off for more than three months (yikes has it really been that long?)-- either as my protest against running since 2008 ended in defeat or fear of the pain returning the minute I pick up the speed--I've waited long enough to set up my new toy. My Garmin 305 has been out of the box, but that's about all I've done with it up until this point. That and a quick flip-through of the manual where I decided I didn't want to mess with it--OK so maybe I didn't really want the temptation to test out my toy and go running on a chilly Christmas morning with my hip still making me limp as I walked. But with my first race of the season finally here I'm biting the bullet--finally--and dealing with my running demons and new gear.

I'm hoping the 305 will help me train more at the right pace and gain a better guage all-around. I'm notorious for tracking my run distances through Google maps and a pedometer and roughly estimating my elapsed time. And I'm also tracking with my Nike+ system, but admittedly, I never calibrated the steps properly and it always tells me I'm running further and faster than I actually am. And shock: I've never used a heartrate monitor. Twelve marathons, three half Ironmans, two centuries and numerous long-distance rides, and one Ironman and I've never monitored the one thing that is pretty key in training. I'm also curious to really record my workouts and analyze the information. I've done mini-efforts in the past with recording my workout for the day and how long it took, but I've never really gotten into comparing past workouts as I can screw around with on the Garmin. The tracking software available with the system just sounds really cool. Until I attended a demonstration at the Garmin store on Michigan Avenue, I never knew the intracies of the data analysis all the way down to how the elevation affected your run, mapping your workout, and the link with Training Peaks, yet another online tool to train with. Plus the option for a cadence sensor for the bike and footpod to track indoor workouts is appealing. I'm convinced I can use all the help I can get on both the bike and the run, although I'm not sold on the loud beeping to warn me of exceeding my heartrate zone or surpassing a mile marker (but hey, at least I can turn it off).

I'm still curious to see how the Garmin will change how I run--and yes, I saw yet another one at the gym last night before said runner took off on a speed workout with The Road to Boston training group--but it's change I can believe in. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Note: I realize the 305 isn't the latest Garmin product on the market, but it's one utilized by several runners and has a separate accessory to benefit cycling as well. I'd also take one of the Garmins Liz announced the release of--the FR60 and the Mac-compatible Garmin, especially since I'm a MAC regular and a PC foreigner--but a deal is a deal, especially when I'm convincing my parents, who don't always get my running, that this is a helpful tool. At least my dad buys it when I say it'll help me get to Boston--he understands my desire to get back and fast. In the meantime, I'll keep you posted on the Garmin progress.

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