Thursday, October 31, 2013

Garmin 210 Review

BLACKAfter running with the Garmin 405 for a couple of years, I decided to try out a much simpler, lighter, and more compact model this time around. For those of you not completely familiar with the product, the 405 is a great watch, but it is large, has a bit too much weight to it, and has a touch screen bezel. While in perfect conditions the watch worked great, the touch screen component became difficult to deal with when water entered the picture—at times the watch would do crazy things, and these crazy things could keep you from obtaining your data during your run and race, thus rendering the watch less than useful.

Enter the Garmin 210. This watch drops the weight considerably, moving down from 60 grams with the 405 to 52 grams. While the number seems minor, three hours into a run, the watch still feels absent and has not become a mental and physical burden.
While I could pile in the box and out of the box pictures up here, what you really need to know is that the watch comes standard with a heart rate monitor, charging cable (USB style), and an outlet adapter. Since I do not train by heart rate anymore, I sold my monitor on eBay for around $30 and thus cut my overall cost down.

From first use, the Garmin 210 removes a lot of the features that tended to clog down the 405. First off, you can find the satellites, both in the USA and abroad, and you can find them quickly. In the past I have spent as many as five minutes waiting. At this juncture I think I have waited no more than a single minute in a new location, thirty seconds or less in an old one. Gone are multiple screens of data. Instead, you have three main data points: overall time, distance traveled, and lap speed (instant speed). The click of a single button can you give you lap specific data including lap distance, time, and speed. All in all, I do not need much more in the way of information. Virtual training partners can be bothersome—if I want to hit a goal I need to be the one that gets me there and thus do not need a beep to tell me where I am.

The signal strength is generally strong and consistent. Every now and then, the watch loses touch, especially in the deep woods, something I can discern from observing my instapace, watching a 7:45 mile jump to 9:00 without a pace change. Yet, these disturbances are usually relatively short lived as the watch reconnects (GPS watches ping every 3-4 seconds, phone GPS ever 7-10). When running in the city, the watch hold up fairly well around the buildings, and the pacing seemed accurate (tested in Boston and New York City).

While the watch is technically only 1m water resistant, water is not the enemy here. With the 405, raindrops or my sweat could change my screen or send the watch into a frenzy. I wouldn’t submerge the watch, but I wouldn’t submerge my smartphone either unless I wanted to buy a new one. Running in both downpours of rain and perspiration, the watch holds up, I can access my data, and plow through the workout.

The battery is reliable, needing to be charged about 1-2 times a week depending on my mileage. While I miss the overall percentage of battery life data the 405 gave, the four bars system only takes a little bit of time to decode. If I drop to a single bar and have more than an hour’s  worth of running to do, charge the watch.

After running a couple marathons, multiple 5k’s, and four months of steady wear, I would recommend this model as a dependable GPS watch solution.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Eat and Run

When I picked up Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run, I was unsure of what to expect. As an avid reader, writer, and runner, books on running and about runners typically flow for me, and thus I often reach the end of them searching for more. Each running text explores a different facet of running, ranging from training method, historical context, or personal narrative. This time around, I hoped to learn about Jurek the man, his motivations, his drives, and the life of a Vegan Runner, and I did. Eat and Run will give you these things, it will lead you down that road. He loads the text with Philosophy, he details many of his races, and he explains how and why he is a Vegan Runner.
 Yet Jurek’s text, while interesting at times, just didn’t provide the narrative experience that keeps a page turning. This is not to say that the text is not worth the look, but that rather it fails to flow as a cohesive narrative. Eat and Run is broken into chapters that center on an important event or stage of Jurek’s life with each chapter ending with a Vegan Recipe. As stand-alone articles, many of the chapters would be great reads, yet they fail to connect in the book format. We jump from race to race with little mention of the events in-between. Personals issues come and go, sometimes they are given a backstory and subsequent resolution, other times the tales have no terminus and we are just left there. In the texts opening pages, we are hooked by a harrowing tale of one of Jurek's attempts to tame the Badwater Ultramarathon, a race that transverses Death Valley, running a 135 miles, in the middle of July. Yet this tale is never really brought a conclusion, being only half finished much farther into the text. The wait was too long, the narrative too jarring.

At times, Jurek will describe a single endurance event in detail, whether it is a training run up a mountain, a 24-hour race run in pursuit of a record, or a spiritual experience while running the Spartatholon through Greece. These moments make the text—we want to read about what makes an ultra-marathoner, how this man can push through the pain, run with broken bones, and submerge himself in a coffin like structure full of ice water in the middle of Death Valley. Yet, Jurek suddenly breaks away from these moments, leaving a jarring experience. His family life is deeply humane, interesting, and pushes you to understand why he runs like he does, but one heartfelt tale doesn’t always flow into another. We read about his mother's health struggles and how they drove Jurek to train, but at times these details are more assumed and inferred than stated. His race schedule is sporadic to the reader, and the reader may struggle when confronted with the nature of the events if they are not familiar with them.

All in all, Jurek bares his heart, teaches you about running, why people run, and how running is far more than physical activity—it is philosophy in motion. He provides interesting recipes, and for the most part the results have been favorable when I’ve tried them out. For the runner, for the marathoner, for the lunatic wanting to run farther than 26.2, give it a look.