Garmin Fenix2

In May 2014, it became painfully obvious that if we were going to add sports to our workouts that we would no longer be able to utilize the Nike+ GPS Watch.  It skewed running data because it was only intended to track runs, not running and swimming.  Over the last 8 months, the Fenix 2 has treated me well and my thoughts about the watch are posted below (this is all on the verge of the Fenix 3 release).

First and foremost, coming from the Nike+ GPS watch, I found that Garmin has a far superior system for connecting to satellites.  I had become quite accustomed to a several minute walk around while waving my arms in hopes of finding satellites, but that wasn’t the case with the Fenix 2.  I was quickly picking up my location (within 10 seconds of starting an activity).  This was a relief immediately because in addition to my pre-run walking and waving, there were many times I had to go back into the house, plug in the watch to update the gps data, and then go back outside for more walking and waving.  My understanding of this, is that Garmin uploads geo data to the watch when you connect to the computer so it has some idea of where you are before you walk out the door.

The Fenix 2 also has a great range of activities to choose from, some of which I will never use.  For instance, I am not a skier and I don’t believe I will ever go rock climbing.  There are, however, many that I have and do use.  Hiking, Running, Biking, Swimming, have all had their turn since I purchased the watch.  The indoor feature is quite good too.  The Fenix contains internal accelerometers so that there isn’t any need for a footpod while running, and when paired with the HRM Run, running dynamic information is available on Garmin Connect after the run.

While I haven’t yet used the Multi-sport mode, I have had plenty of opportunities to.  Last summer we were doing quite a few bike/run bricks.  For some reason I never put it together and so I never used this function.

Accuracy is quite similar to any other gps watch I have used, but I will say that Nike tries to snap your run to paths and roads much more than Garmin does.

Form:

Form factor for the watch is good.  The watch itself is quite large, but it does remain comfortable to wear.  Mine came with a fabric/velcro strap as a replacement that I put on for a short time, but decided I preferred the rubber/plastic band.

Function:

Each activity offers a wide variety of screens for the athlete to see how they are doing.  For running I choose to look at my pace, HR and Cadence.  For me they are the most important parts of my run.  I have a second screen that has vertical oscillation, I review this from time to time since I tend to bounce more at a slower pace.

For swimming, I compared the Fenix2 to the 920xt.  During 1000 yards, the 920 was pretty consistent with measuring the correct distance and the Fenix2 picked upon extra 50 yards somewhere along the way.  This could have been an issue of wearing them on different wrists, but I can’t imagine that my right and left arms were moving that far out of sync that the fenix would sense a direction change, but the 920 would not.

Cycling tracks important things for me, Cadence and Speed.  I also tend to watch HR on this as well, but for the most part, I am watching cadence.  I watch this a lot for indoor rides and almost neglect the speed since I am focused more on consistency than how far I have gone (plus indoor rides are pretty easy to get a lot of mileage because there aren’t any hills on my trainer).

The Fenix2 actually has something on it that I miss on the 920xt.  The Altimeter.  I am sure this is because the Fenix2 functions as a hiking kind of watch and the 920 doesn’t have that same focus, so altitude isn’t likely as big a factor, but I do miss it.

Battery Life

Garmin claims 50 hours of battery life with the GPS on.  I can’t say I have come anywhere close to this, but I can say that I have gone a week without needing to charge it using it for running, cycling and as a daily watch.

Other Features

Garmin has started to build in smart watch features to their multisport and running watches.  If you are reading this and haven’t read my 920XT first look or my Garmin Vivosmart review, or even my note on the new Apple Watch, you can see the same opinion there.  I don’t need to see everything that is coming through to my phone all the time.  It is distracting . . . even more distracting that the phone going off in my pocket.

Verdict

I really like the Fenix2, it is a great watch and has a ton of really great features that aren’t available on every sport watch out there.  For my first foray into a multisport watch, it was perfect.  It did everything I needed it to do and then some.  The large form of the body leaves something to be wished for, but I do not notice it a lot during my workouts.

Garmin Foot Pod Review

In December, my Garmin fenix 2 began miscalculating my pace on the treadmill.  Thus, skewing my data on Garmin Connect, including my VO2 Max.  Read more about it in my Unboxing post.

I ordered the Garmin foot pod at the end of January and after I calibrated it outdoors, I began running with it on the treadmill.  I used the Garmin foot pod as well as the Nike+ foot pod on the runs to compare the data.

Below are the distances calculated for 25 runs – 4 were outdoors and 21 on the treadmill.  The differences were mostly negligible.  There were a few runs, including the most recent, that had a difference of nearly 0.2 miles.  Although, over the course of the 25 runs, the Garmin calculated 1.33 miles more than the Nike+.

Date Run Type Fenix2 Nike+ Delta
1/29/2015 Treadmill 2.02 1.95 0.07
2/1/2015 Treadmill 3.11 3.15 -0.04
2/2/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.92 0.09
2/3/2015 Treadmill 1.76 1.77 -0.01
2/5/2015 Treadmill 1.37 1.30 0.07
2/12/2015 Treadmill 1.30 1.27 0.03
2/16/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.96 0.05
2/19/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.95 0.06
2/22/2015 Treadmill 3.10 2.98 0.12
2/23/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.97 0.04
2/26/2015 Treadmill 2.01 1.94 0.07
2/28/2015 Treadmill 5.01 5.16 -0.15
3/2/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.95 0.06
3/3/2015 Treadmill 2.01 1.90 0.11
3/5/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.95 0.06
3/8/2015 Outdoors 6.21 6.22 -0.01
3/10/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.93 0.08
3/16/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.94 0.07
3/21/2015 Outdoors 8.01 8.08 -0.07
3/23/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.91 0.10
3/26/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.87 0.14
3/31/2015 Outdoors 3.10 3.07 0.03
4/4/2015 Outdoors 8.01 7.98 0.03
4/13/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.87 0.14
4/22/2015 Treadmill 1.48 1.29 0.19
TOTAL 59.61 58.28 1.33

As far as ease of use, the Garmin foot pod connects much more quickly to the fenix 2 than the Nike foot pod connects to the watch.  The Garmin is also nice in that it uses a replaceable CO2032 battery which can be purchased just about anywhere for a couple of dollars.  Whereas the Nike foot pod does not have a replaceable battery, you have to purchase a new foot pod, costing around $20.

The Garmin foot pod connects directly onto the shoe with it’s included lace clip.  I typically leave it on my shoe and have not had any issues with it falling off.  The Nike+ sensor is not standalone.  You either have to wear shoes that accept the Nike+ foot pod or buy a pouch to connect it to your shoe.  The sensors are approximately the same size.

Garmin and Nike Foot Pods

Garmin and Nike Foot Pods

Overall, I am satisfied with the Garmin foot pod.  It took one outdoor run to calibrate and I haven’t had any issues since.  My Garmin Connect data, including VO2 Max and pace, are back to normal.

First Ride Fail

Since the weather was going to be nice, around 50 degrees on Monday, we decided to do our 30 minute bike ride outside.  I was excited to take the new bike for a spin.  Around 3 o’clock, I begin to get everything ready for the ride.

First order of business was to remove my pedals from my road bike and put them on my tri bike.  The right pedal came off with ease.  I transferred it.  The left pedal I had a harder time with.  I couldn’t get it to budge.  I figured I was doing something wrong, possibly tightening instead of loosening.  I searched the Look website as well as some bike forums to ensure I was turning the right way.  The dang thing wouldn’t move.  I got a rubber mallet to add a little force, still nothing.  After tinkering with it for much longer than I expected, I remained calm and decided to let Nick handle it.  I know I lack upper body strength and he would be able to get it off without a problem.  Well, that didn’t work out exactly as planned.  Nick tried removing the pedal and the dang thing still wouldn’t move.

After we wasted over an hour trying to remove the left pedal, we were losing daylight and rain was threatening, I decided I would just ride my road bike.  It was our first ride outside since May of last year.  At this point it didn’t matter which bike I rode, I just needed to be on a bike outside.  I replaced the right pedal on my Felt and finished getting ready for the ride.

We were finally outside, ready to ride.  I started my Fenix 2.  All was well until I realized my cadence sensor wasn’t providing any data.  We rode a lap around the neighborhood.  Still no data.  I stopped the activity and started a new one in an attempt to connect the sensor.  Then I realized, in our effort to remove the pedal, we must have bumped the sensor out of place.  No worries, I continued the ride and tried to maintain a steady cadence.  We did a short out and back, approximately 3 miles each way.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to figure out what the speed on the trainer equates to in real life.  Well, Monday I got the answer.  I am able to maintain approximately 22 mph on the trainer for 30 miles.  Once out of our neighborhood, my Fenix 2 showed 20 mph, not bad.  We got to the end of the road and turned around.  I could feel a headwind, but didn’t feel like it was slowing me down by much.  At one point I glanced at my watch and saw just over 8 mph.  I thought for sure this was a glitch, maybe the gps was in a dead spot.  I looked down again, and I was holding steady at 10 mph.  What the heck?!  I was not nearly getting the results I expected outside.  I knew my legs were pushing hard, and couldn’t believe I was having such a difficult time maintaining 10 mph.

We finally returned home and I reviewed my stats from the ride on Garmin Connect.  My average speed was 12.7 mph (not awful, but not what I expected) including a maximum speed of 24.1 mph (that’s better).  The weather was a chilly 48 degrees with 8+ mph wind, making it a headwind on the way back, which was also the uphill part of the ride.  Ah-ha, now I understand the problem!  Stupid headwind can really put a damper one’s ego.

The answer to my question:  30 miles on the trainer at 22 mph equals 10 mph on the road with an 8 mph headwind.  In conclusion, I definitely need to ride more outside to get accustomed to the elevation changes and varying weather conditions.

Cadence Conundrum

When we purchased our bikes last year, I researched on optimal cadence while riding to be anywhere from 80-100 rpm, depending on the person.  We did a few rides last spring without any tracking devices, and I just rode at the pace and cadence that felt comfortable to me.  I had no idea what 90 rpm felt like or how to achieve it, so I did my best to keep my cadence consistent, regardless of what it was.  I only have two rides with my Garmin speed/cadence bike sensor from earlier in 2014.  My cadence was low, averaging 60 rpm on both rides.  These were both street rides with stops, so my moving cadence was approximately 65-70 rpm.

My first ride on the trainer I rode at a normal effort to give me a baseline on how much I needed to improve pace and cadence.  My average cadence for that ride was 69 rpm.  When I began pedaling that’s how fast my legs wanted to go, that was my comfort zone.

I’ve since focused strictly on cadence when I ride, regardless of the speed or distance of the ride.  I keep my pedaling between 80-85 rpm and have done so far about a month now.

I did a little test the other day to see if I’ve truly improved my cadence.  I got on the bike and rode at a comfortable pace for several minutes (without looking at the stats on my Fenix 2).  When I looked down, I was expecting for me to fall back into my slower habit, but to my surprise my cadence was between 85-87 rpm.  I had indeed improved!

Garmin Connect Bike Cadence

Average Bike Cadence

 

Now that I am consistently riding at a more ideal cadence, I started incorporating a few 1-minute sprints into my rides to continue improving cadence as well as begin increasing my speed.

Unboxing of the Garmin Foot Pod

Some time in December 2014, my Garmin fenix 2 began miscalculating my pace on the treadmill.  Although most of my runs have been on the treadmill this winter, I am making an effort to do my longer runs outdoors to keep the watch calibration information current.  The watch is calculating my pace between 8:30 and 9:00/mile.  My normal outdoor pace, as well as the pace I run according to the treadmill, is 11:30-12:00/mile.

My data is now skewed in Garmin Connect.  After each treadmill run, I correct the distance in Garmin Connect, and the pace recalculates.  As you can see below, the pace is still recorded in Garmin Connect at the faster pace from the watch, even though the average pace has been corrected.  This has also resulted in the miscalculation of my VO2 Max data as well as my training effect data (because the watch senses me running much faster than what is happening in reality).

Garmin Connect Pace

This is just a limitation of the watch, because it is based off of wrist movements.  Thursday I got frustrated with my data not being correct and purchased the Garmin Foot Pod from Amazon.  It arrived today.  Unboxing was a bit anticlimactic, as it only contains the foot pod and instructions.

As you can see the foot pod is small in size and comes with a lace clip to secure to your shoe.  I didn’t realize this when I purchased it, but the foot pod is powered by a replaceable CR2032 battery.

Garmin Foot pod

Top view of foot pod

Garmin Foot pod

Side view of foot pod

I intend on calibrating the foot pod this week and wearing on my treadmill runs for sure (I’m undecided at the moment whether I will wear it on my outdoor runs as well).  Either way, I plan to use it consistently for the next few weeks and write an in-depth review afterwards.

Update 04/23/2015:  See the Full Product Review

Running Isn’t Just About the Shoes

Mizuno Running ShoesWhen we first started running in 2012, I thought running was going to be a low-cost sport. All I needed was a pair of training shoes, right?  And who doesn’t have a pair of shoes in their closet?   We walk the dogs almost every day, adding a little running to the mix wasn’t going to hurt anything.  So, we began the couch to 5k program.  Once we got into the program, I decided I needed running shoes.  We went to a local running store and got fitted for a pair of running shoes.  That made all of the difference in the world.  I realized that my everyday walking shoes weren’t what I needed for running – I needed a larger, more cushiony shoe for running.  The first time getting fitted for a good pair of running shoes took about an hour.  The salesman measured both of my feet to get me in the right size, watched me walk barefoot to determine what kind of support I needed in the shoe, and then let me try on several shoes that would fit my foot for my individual needs.  At this point in time, I was not concerned with how responsive or fast the shoe was, it was a matter of which shoe I thought fit best and was the most comfortable.

Next up were running clothes.  Running in Texas in the summer is HOT!  I mean, some days we were completely drenched in sweat.  I needed running clothes, and I’m not just talking about an old t-shirt and shorts.  I needed something to keep me cool, not weigh me down, and once again something that was comfortable.  I bought a couple of moisture-wicking shirts and a pair of running shorts.  What a difference that makes!

On our runs, Nick was using a Nike+ SportWatch to time the intervals.  After using it for a few months on our runs, I decided I needed one for myself.  I was traveling a good bit for work, so it would be nice to be able to track the runs I did alone.  Also, I am a stats geek and wanted to see the details of my runs – How fast was I going?  How long was I running?  How far did I run?  How many miles have a put on my shoes, and when could I justifying buying a new pair?  The beginning of December 2012, I bought my Nike+ Sportswatch.  Now Nick and I could compete on who runs the most that month and our runs weren’t just logged under one account.  In the spring on 2014, we began cycling so we purchased a multisport watch, the Garmin Fenix 2.

You would think this everything one needs to run, but this is far from it.  In the beginning of 2013, I was asked to go to Alaska for a couple of weeks.  In case you didn’t catch that, I was going to Alaska (the North Slope, to be exact) in the winter!!!  Upon reading what one should bring on such a cold adventure, one of the recurring tips was to ditch cottonbecause it holds moisture.  Hmmm, cotton holds moisture.  I realized this didn’t just apply to the cold weather, it was great advice for the warm (unbearibly hot and humid) weather as well.  Cotton socks cause can blisters; cotton underpants hold in moisture.

Other running necessities include polarized sunglasses with rubber in the arms so they stay in place, even when my face is drenched in sweat.  Headbands and hats to keep the sun, sweat, and rain out of my eyes. Compression clothing to help stay warm in the winter (because Wisconsin is COLD in the winter!).  Additional shoes, I have one pair that has more cushion for longer training runs; another pair that is a faster, more responsive shoe for races;  also, an older pair of running shoes that I use when it’s raining, on trail runs, or on color runs that way I don’t mess up my good running shoes.  Finally we have hydration and nutrition, like a water bottle to take on those hot summer runs; gels, chews, and waffles to give you energy on the long runs; and gum to keep your mouth from drying out in the dry air.

I’m sure as I run more, I will find other things I need or can’t run without.  Running is a fun, yet challenging sport.  Like Nick always tells me, “If it was easy, then everyone would do it.”

But now I know, running isn’t just about the shoes.

Garmin Fenix 3

Today Garmin announced the Fenix 3

A little less than a year ago, Emily and I were looking for a new GPS watch so that we could track more than running.  That is when we found DC Rainmaker who turned us on to the Garmin Fenix 2 with his excellent review.  It has turned out to be a great sport watch and we look forward to how the Fenix 3 will improve upon it.  First impression is that it looks great!

Garmin Fenix 3

Garmin Fenix 3