Saturday, November 2, 2019

Garmin Fenix 5

Over the years, I am not sure I have sufficiently expressed the significant role Garmin's GPS watches have played in my post high school return to running.  It's not just about recording all of the interesting places I have run...though that novelty persists to the point where I won't run or hike unless I am using my watch.  It's not just about being able to observe time, distance, and pace in real-time, though it is definitely a huge advantage over how I trained in my early years.  The real advantage comes from all of the data I have collected from my running activities.  For me, running is personal...so I really don't care how my times compare to others.  But what I do care about is how my pace compares to runs I have done before...as it provides clear evidence that my training is paying off.  It also informs my decisions about how much effort I should put into my training and what goals are realistic.  And, when I race, I use this data to set a realistic pace target.

One thing that has changed since I resumed running is that we all now carry GPS-enabled smartphones on our activities.  At first, one might think this diminishes the need for weighing down our wrists.  Last year, my Garmin Fenix 2 died.  It would not take a charge.  Rather than spring for a new watch, I decided to see how long I could get by with just a phone and Strava, an app I had long been using with my Garmin data as I liked its social aspects, challenges, and how it breaks routes into segments and awards achievements.  At first, I didn't mind that I couldn't observe my time on my wrist.  I would sometimes not pay attention to the audio pace updates though...so I was clearly not aware of my moment-to-moment pace...but this didn't really matter until I decided to register for races.  And I definitely wouldn't want to run a race without being able to observe my pace on my terms.

So that pretty much forced me to upgrade to another Garmin watch.  Part of my hesitation to do so was my experience with the Fenix 2.  It was much more expensive than my previous Garmin Forerunners, but lasted a fraction of the lifespan.  The only thing I really liked about the Fenix 2 was its improved form factor over my previous Garmin Forerunners.  I was never happy with its battery life.  I didn't like synchronizing the watch with a phone app over Bluetooth...it often failed.  Connecting my previous watches via USB to the computer was infinitely more reliable.

I heard good things about the battery life of Fenix 5, so I took advantage of a sweet deal and picked one up with plenty of time to familiarize myself with it before my first race.  What a difference a few years makes!  Everything about this watch is improved over all Garmin watches I have owned before.  It's truly the first watch I don't have to charge more than once a week.  It is the first Garmin watch that  I feel comfortable wearing as a normal watch for this very reason, not just because of its significantly reduced size.  In a few years, these watches will dimensionally be no different than non-GPS watches.  And this Garmin is almost a smartwatch, being able to display notifications from my phone (leaving the watch connected does drain its battery though).  It syncs with the phone app very reliably...to the point where I now share my data as soon as I finish my runs.

And one of my favorite things? I no longer need to wear something else to record my heart rate.

I have only begun to scratch the surface of what this watch can do.  I have uploaded custom routes, but not nearly to the degree I had though I would.  I took advantage of the distance target during last month's marathon, though I still paid more attention to my time and real-time pace.  I don't really pay attention to steps, but it is amusing to see that this watch keeps tabs on that data when I'm not running. Actually, this is the first watch I have worn when I'm not running in decades!


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