The Garmin was one of my all-time best purchases! I love being able to go anywhere I please on a whim on a run since it tracks my pace, distance, elevation and the grade wherever I go. You can set your Garmin up to do several different things — I have mine set to automatically to “signal” when a mile has passed for instance (you can set it to do all sorts of alarms for intervals, certain miles, certain times, etc. — even alert you if you don’t stay on a predetermined pace). It’s like having a coach on your arm. Mine does record the “laps” automatically and keep that record on the watch and also uploads it to my PC once I’m home. I’m such a geek, I also record each “lap” (mile) in my log book so I can see patterns of where I went off pace, when I was ahead, etc. I don’t have to hit “lap” to get that info. It happens automatically (I think I set it up that way when I got it.) I do have the ability to hit “lap” for track workouts if I want to and have done that on some speedwork. But.. I do know that the book says you can set it up to do “laps” when you hit the same location over and over also (I’m still figuring out some of those programming parts though.)
I love the Virtual Partner!!! You can set it ahead of time to say “have the virtual partner run 5 miles in 55 minutes) and then you race it! You can see a little tiny stick guy (you) and the other stick guy (virtual partner) and you “race” them on the workout. If you beat them, the watch says “YOU WIN!” ha ha. I love that feature on a lone day for motivation.
You can also input courses, mark water spots, etc – but I’m still learning how to do that. The itty bitty map that comes loaded on the Garmin is also fairly rudimentary. It does not have street names (not sure they could fit on the screen.)
My Garmin can tell me what exact time the sun will rise each day, what time it will set (handy when planning a long run at night and making sure to get back before dark). It also tells me calories burned (based on my personal info that I enter – my gender, age, height, weight and the intensity of the workout). It also tells me how often I was in each “zone” (lower numbers are walking — up to fast running). You can see the zones very easily when you upload your workouts after a run to your PC. A cute little map shows up each time too in bright yellow with major roads (like interstates) showing. You have a spot on the software that lets you record “notes” for each run. I always jot a little something down (tried new shoes, did hills, etc.)
You can also see your “max” pace for the workout (which is always a good reason to give it a good kick at the end – ha ha), and your “average” pace. Looking at the graphs and charts on your software after each run is pretty fun.
Oh yeah – and the Garmin tells time too! Go figure huh? The size is a bit intimidating at first — but you’ll love that right away too (model 205), since you can see the numbers easily at a glace. The buttons are super easy to use on a run too. They make it very user-friendly, which is the opposite of what Runner’s World Magazine mentioned this month when reviewing the Polar watches with similar features.
I do wear a sweat band on the wrist I wear my Garmin because I just didn’t like how sweaty my wrist got from wearing it. (Shh – my “sweat band is really the top of an old sock I cut off – but it works perfectly!)
The Garmin is recharchagle and can hold a charge for 10 hours. It has an “automatic pause” that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. Meaning – when I am running streets and have to stop for cars — no more do I have to touch any buttons – the GPS detects I’m standing still and automatically stops the watch and restarts it again when I’m in motion! Very nice!!! Oh yeah – Distance is also on the main screen (if you choose – you can set it up with a huge number of choices to see at once). I like to have 4 things showing at once — time on run, distance, current pace and elevation. You can easily touch a button on the side to scroll through the other screens which show calories, sunset, (again – whatever you choose to see.)
You can use your Garmin for multiple sports. It has a seperate recording for biking, skiking or “other”. I’ve used it on a bike ride and thought it was pretty darn cool! The uploaded info will be seperate from your “running” folder, so you can see them both easily and they don’t mix together. There’s also a compass on there but I can never remember what buttons to push to find it again.
The backlight is great. I can read the Garmin in the dark just fine with a quick push without having to fumble or even look.
Ok, as for the hear rate monitor — I’m not sure how they work. My favorite running pal has the 305 but has never bothered to use the heart rate feature. I know you get a few extra things on your watch screen if you choose that one – cadence (arm cranks per minute), heart rate, etc. Years from now when this Garmin of mine wears out I might try that upgraded model but I’m not sure how I’d feel about having to wear that strap across my chest.
I bought mine from a store on www.amazon.com for about $150 including shipping – brand new. I think they are probably a bit cheaper now that they’ve released a few more models with more bells and whistles. If you do get one and need any help setting it up (at least the basics) I’ll help you figure it out. It’s a fun toy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!