Sunday, August 22, 2010

Does anyone at Garmin actually run?

In 4 years I've had three 205s and one 305.

1 One 205 loss was partially my fault. I read the spec "water resistant to 1 m" and interpreted that to mean that I could swim with it. At the surface. Using the breast stroke. I swam about 10 m (out to a canoe) and the watch took on water behind the glass plate. Garmin kindly replaced the watch but...

2 In discussion with the Garmin tech I was told that "water resistant to 1 m" means the watch should be able to handle being dropped in a puddle but that they recommend to customers to avoid running in the rain with the watch. Wait what? It's crazy enough to build a sports watch that's not resistant to 50 m (which Casio built soon after digital watches first appeared) but to build a running watch that shouldn't be used in the rain? WTF?

3 A second 205 loss occurred because sweat corrodes the little metal plates on the back of the watch. This is a well known issue and my solution is to swap out the Garmin strap with a strap that covers these. Still, bad move building a running watch that is destroyed by sweat.

4 Garmin again kindly replaced my watch and the new 205 lasted about one year before the batteries just died on me and the watch wouldn't start. I could have replaced the batteries but I wanted a HRM and the 305 was now at a reduced price so I purchased the 305. At one point I thought I had lost the 305 and borrowed James 405. I had read reports that runners had a hard time turning the bezel with sweaty hands. I had a hard time turning the bezel with dry hands before the run. And with sweaty hands it was impossible. Again, bad moving building a running watch that becomes afunctional with sweat.

5 This issue doesn't affect me but Polar and Suunto seem to be able to make a HRM that can be worn *and actually record HRs* during swimming.

6 This summer (and last) I've had increasing trouble with artificially high heart rate recordings. Not short spikes but extended bouts of HRs ranging from 170 to 220. My HR max is 175ish and the only time I'm ever over about 165 is hammering a steep hill. This is also a known issue but is only supposed to occur at the beginning of the run. I had these extended bouts throughout my 16 mile run today. I googled the problem looking for solutions. It seems the Garmin HR monitor is sensitive to the static in a shirt (although more people complain about this with the 310xt and not the 305). That cannot be the complete explanation because I have this issue when I don't wear a shirt. Garmin suggests that runners wear a cotton t-shirt, which has less static than a tech tee. WTF?

7 While I'm on my Garmin tirade, I'll add that I loved the old motionbased site. This site was built by what, 2 guys in their spare time? Garmin purchased the site and promised upgrades. Then a year went by. Then another. Then they dropped the project. Now I use RunningAhead, which is an awesome site developed by a single guy (I think).

Apparently the staff at Garmin can run in cotton tees because they neither sweat nor run in the rain.

I'm not hating on the watch. Indeed, I love the big face of the 205/305 with it's screen divided into 3 or 4 parts. I can easily read HR, average pace, and distance while running with sweat in my eyes. But I find it curious that the watch is not resistant to common running related phenomenon, like, uh, sweat, and, oh, rain, and, let's see, tech tees. Is it that no one at Garmin actually runs?


  1. I'm surprised no other company has stepped up to Garmin more. There are a few other options, but not very good ones (that I know of, anyway). Definitely a lot of head scratching with their running watches.

  2. I think that sweat only corrodes the electrodes on the back if you try charging it while it is still wet. If you dry the back of the watch before charging, you shouldn't have an issue, I don't think. I think that the 310 being wireless is much better.

    That said, yeah, I don't get it either.

  3. My friend Clark who co-founded MotionBased is now head of product development at Magellan. Clark is a runner, hiker, back country skier, surfer, etc, so I fully expect Magellan to break into the fitness field. Time will tell.

  4. I guess I can let go of my Garmin envy then.

    I use my iphone, but it doesn't like water nor excessive sweat either nor crashing on it's face into granite. I use it with mapmyrun and although the time and distance a fairly accurate I am disappointed with the elevation detail.

    Someone let me know when they're happy with their running recording device.

  5. I feel your pain as I've been very frustrated with my Polar heart rate monitor. In high humidity, it increments and decrements by huge margins, or leaps up to an off the charts reading like 224. If my HR hit 224, I'd be dead. I think all of these devices have some shortcomings. However for the money we spend, they could be a little better.

    - Peter Minde