Thursday, June 9, 2011

Garmin Thoughts....

So I’ve been a very avid Garmin user since 2004.  I’ll tell you, I’ve had a “Love / Hate” relationship with the device, switching back and forth probably 20 times through the years.  So, if you don’t know about the device I’m talking about, then no sense reading on – but if you do, you’re probably religiously attached to it in some way, and have a lot of strong opinions, pro or con; here are mine..

1) Everything from the 305 up seems to keep a satellite signal even in the densest woods.  Much improved from my first unit.  I trust my 305; it’s even helped me “return to home” in Europe on a long run when I had no idea where I was.

2) I use my Garmin for most every run I go on – Primary reason is distance, secondary is pace.

3) I monitor pace by using the Lap function.  I auto lap every mile, and 95% of the time I’m looking at my average lap pace.  Instantaneous pace I find to be way too unstable.  Here are my screens:

            a) 3 fields: Average Lap Pace (Top Big), Lap Time (Bottom Left),  
            Lap Distance (Bottom Right)
            This is the screen I look at most of the time. 

b) 3 fields: Average Run Pace (Top Big), Total Run Time (Bottom Left), Total Run Distance (Bottom Right)
I think of this as my “overall run screen”.

c) 4 fields: Time of Day, Calories, Elevation, Heart Rate.  I don’t really use heart rate, but this is my “miscellaneous” screen, that I just sometimes flick to.

               Again, auto lap set to 1 mile

4) When I do intervals, or hill days, I’ll “force” a lap change by hitting the lap button.  For example at the top or bottom of a hill.  That way my pace average resets.

5) I always know before going out on a training run what pace I want to maintain.  Last night I wanted to simply stay under 8 for 10 miles, considering the 93 degree heat.  I monitored the Garmin often, and if I was slipping, I’d pick up the pace.  When I was going at 7:30, I’d slow down.  Had I not had the Garmin I’d have very little idea what pace I was at.  Again, training runs I ALWAYS run to it.

6) Racing – ah, this is the tricky one, and the one I go back and forth on the most.  When is the last time you’ve seen Ryan Hall with a Garmin during a marathon?  I think a lot of people race to the “run how you feel” strategy in a race, and I’ve done this quite a bit myself.  Otherwise there is a strong risk; if I set out to hold a 6:30 pace on a 5K for instance, and at mile 1 I see I’m only at 7:00, then maybe I could push harder –the risk is that on that day, 7:00 was all I was going to get, and after pushing harder for the next mile, I would blow up.  It’s happened.  The other argument of course is that maybe I was simply slacking, and the Garmin helped remind me that I can do better.  Honestly, I’m not sure what is right or wrong here, I’ve benefited, and been burnt by both.  I have though raced with my Garmin on for “reference”.  In this case I run how I feel, and look at the Garmin to tell me how I am doing – but not adjust because of it.  At this time, that’s the best approach (for me), I think.

7) I will say that my Marathon 3:24 PR I ran without a Garmin, but I did have on a watch.  I only set out to stay under 8 for as long as I could – and every mile I would look down to see how I did – anything under 8 I felt was “in the bank”, and if it was over, it was a withdrawal.  In this case I held 7:45 for the majority of the run – yes I ran how I felt, but I did monitor it – I did “try” to stay below a certain pace, but the watch only told me “what happened” vs. “what’s happening”.

8) During a recent successful 50 mile race, I used the virtual partner; I do like this function.  I set it up for 50 miles in under 11 hours, and it constantly told me if I was ahead or behind schedule.  Of course this also is risky as it assumes you’ll run the early miles at the same pace as the later, but I go out assuming I’ll get quite a jump at first, then start giving back; by mile 5 I was 1.5 miles ahead for example.  In this case I really did work to stay ahead of the VP, BUT, I do think it’s different in a slow Ultra, vs. a 5K for example where you’re on the edge of exhaustion, and vulnerable to pushing too hard.

So, clear as mud – I always use it to train because I know what I want to do before I go out (unless for example I’m running with someone, then it just is what it is), but during races only for reference, if at all.  BUT I use it in a very long race.  

All comments welcome on this one!


  1. Good post, Iove my Garmin 310XT. Ryan Hall wore his Garmin at Boston this year, you can see his data on Garmin connect. Check out the YouTube video also at

  2. Ha! Fine example I gave then! Ok, ok, but you know what I mean. Anyway, Ryan Hall would wear a Mickey Mouse watch if Disney gave him $1,000 to do it! But generally the elites just wear watches, unless of course they have a promotional opportunity (apparently I need to get more up on current events).

    Funny, I was thinking about writing how I ran with the Trail Dog on Sunday, and how I felt bad for her that most runners don't run with a winter coat on; but I was afraid someone might comment that "Yea, I guess, but actually Scott Jurek ran Badwater with a winter coat last year to prove it could be done!" :)

    The Doctor....

    Thanks for the comment! :)

  3. Hey Doctor,

    I'm definitely in the same boat. I love my Garmin Forerunner 310XT and I use it religiously as an analytical tool. It's great if you have a regular run that you do every week as you can compare multiple runs side by side to see where you slacked off, or where you picked up the pace.

    But I have had some major problems trying to use my Garmin as a pacing tool during an actual race. I think this is probably unique to the fact that I do a lot of trail running in the mountains, but it often will shortchange me saying that I've run a couple miles less that I actually have. This obviously then throws off the pace and makes me thing I am running much too slow. So naturally I pick up the pace and then wonder why I bonked and crashed at mile 20.