Even though this isn’t quite as amazingly cool & useful as I thought it was initially (due to inherent limitations in GPS technology), I love this little gadget. I just started training for a marathon (I will run it very slowly, but I *will* *finish*!) and I live in a very hilly rural area. It’s always been very difficult for me to know my pace, plan runs, do intervals, etc., but the Forerunner changes everything!
I’ve had a Polar heart rate monitor for several years and it’s been great for timing my runs and monitoring my progress (my average heart rate is much lower when I’m in training, which is gratifying). Still, there are only a few measures it covers, it can only hold one past run’s data, etc. By comparison, the Forerunner is just amazing! 2 year’s worth of runs, a dozen measures on multiple screens, etc. The user interface is very clear & well-designed, although there’s a bit of a learning curve (inevitably, since it has so many powerful features). Nice documentation too.
I was shocked at how small and light it is–even though the screen is huge and very legible. I love that you can see where you run (or bike, or walk) on a map. I love the automatic pause. I was initially very excited by the instant pace, elevation, and grade measures, but they’re what turns out to be too good to be true. Due to the time lag & difficulty of locking onto 4 satellites at once, those quick-changing things don’t work very well. So when I slow down or speed up, it takes a while for the pace reading to reflect that. Now that I think of the pace shown as being what I was doing 10-30 seconds ago, it’s still somewhat useful. Grade is useless, and elevation doesn’t seem to be much better. (I want to try just standing still at the top and bottom of hills I run to see if I can get a more accurate reading).
I’ve had some problems with losing the satellite signal under trees, etc, but wearing the Forerunner on my bicep instead of my wrist and giving it at least 5 minutes to lock on to the signals before starting my run seem to help.
I debated between the 201 and 101 (quite a bit cheaper, uses AAA batteries instead of a rechargeable built-in, can’t hook up to your computer), but the main thing that decided me was someone’s comment that if you can’t upgrade the firmware, it’s a dead-end product (and the 201 has already had several firmware upgrades). I haven’t yet downloaded Garmin’s logbook software and sent data to my computer. It sounds like the software’s not so hot, but you can take the data points and feed them into better programs like TopoFusion.
Very soon there will be similar gadgets that use WAAS for higher GPS accuracy (the Foretrex already does, but it sounded tough to adapt to training needs) and fold in a HRM too. (The Timex Bodylink combines GPS and HRM, but it’s expensive and clunkier, from what I hear). But I’m glad I didn’t wait!
You can read more about my adventures with my Forerunner and other gear at my marathon blog: www.salticid.com/marathon/