Monday, October 5, 2009

Breaking In My New Garmin Forerunner 405

I finally broke down and upgraded from the Garmin Forerunner 205 to the 405 this past week. I ordered it off of eBay for a very reasonable "buy it now" price, and separately ordered a footpod accelerometer. They both arrived very quickly.

Two primary reasons prompted me to do this. 1) The outside of my wrists (base of the ulna) were so bruised and swollen on both sides from the bouncing of the 205 (my wrists are tiny and twig like), and 2) Chicago has a couple of long tunnels early on, which throws off pacing and elapsed distance for the entire race.

The footpod itself is very small, and it pops out of a plastic frame, which sits under your laces and you pop the pod into it. Certain shoes (not mine) have a compatible compartment under the sole. It was a bit of a struggle to get it clipped on with the laces per the instructions, but with a few mild curses under my breath, eventually it got snapped in.

I couldn't get it to detect the footpod right away despite walking with the footpod the entire time (you have to have it moving to send data). But, eventually, I hit "rescan," and it was detected, and from that moment on, it all went very smoothly.

The instructions were to calibrate the footpod with a certified 400m track for best results (although using GPS or a treadmill are also options). I set out to my local track, and buckled on the 405. It felt large and awkward, as if it weren't designed for a slight, female runner (Hello? What does Deena Kastor wear?). However, I still had two notches left after it was snugly latched, unlike the 205 which had room to go on the smallest notch (part of the problem). The instructions were easy enough to follow, and I set off for my first 800M (two loops) around the track. When I completed this, it said, "Calibration factor of 988." What on earth does THAT mean? I was mystified. Maybe I should be closer to 1000? There really should be more of a reference about these numbers.

I set off to do another round of calibration, but this time it was 972. Hmmm. Better do it again. On the third 800M repeat, it came out as 978. Oddly, I didn't yet feel comfortable with that number, even though I had no idea what it meant. So, I went for a fourth double loop, and this was 988 again. I left with that with some dis-ease that I wasn't completely calibrated. When asked by several, "Did you get your footpod calibrated?" I did not know how to answer. "Sort of? I'm really not sure."

So, on Sunday, I decided to strap on both watches (my 205 and my 405) to see how they matched. This, of course, is because GPS in a clear sky on my 205 is Gospel (in my head anyway). As I switched to my trail shoes and popped the footpod on, I realized there was a design problem with the footpod attachment mechanism and wearing gaiters. There wasn't anywhere to hook my gaiter. But, in all fairness to Garmin, it's probably not the primary use case to go trail running with a footpod.

After my first six miles with both watches, I had learned a couple of very critical things. First, the pacing on the 405 with the footpod was not only useless, it was harmful to me. I'd been running 8:02s after the first mile, and should have been in the 8:24 to 8:45 range. I felt fine, of course, but this wasn't supposed to be a tempo run. The pacing on the 405 was showing high 8s to high 9s (when I was clearly more in the 8:00 range). The distance elapsed on the 405 was also way off, by about 2 percent (it hadn't even gotten to 5.8 when I crossed 6.0 miles with my 205).

During my Gatorade break, I started fiddling with the manual calibration. I ended up with a final setting of 997 and was matching mile for mile on the two watches. At last, I feel totally comfortable with the elapsed time and distance calibration, but I also have learned that the pacing must be completely ignored, or I will go out too fast. Not sure why this is; but important lesson to learn now and not on race day.

I did find that the 405 was very comfortable and almost not noticeable on wrist after the run, but the 205 was still quite problematic (a fresh bruise on my right wrist). I am pleased with the way the 405 was feeling on my wrist, even though it didn't initially feel very good.

Thus, my final race plan is to wear the 405 with the footpod (already in place in my racing shoes), and to stick like velcro to the 3:40 pace team for pacing. I will try to remain glued to them until either I can no longer hang, or I am feeling exceptionally good in the last two miles, and I might creep ahead at that point. My ultimate goal is to finish in 3:40:00, but will be very happy with anything below 3:45. I need a 3:50:59 in order to qualify for Boston.


Sharon said...

Best wishes for a BQ in Chicago! Wish I was going to be there :(

On a happier note, I get to start my walk/run intervals next Monday!!! I have been on a pure walking plan for the past 5 weeks. I am excited and scared at the same time.

I hope you learn to love the forerunner 405. My husband got me one last Christmas and I only got to use it briefly from mid-April to mid-May before I got reinjured. I like it a lot, but hate how the bezel is so sensitive. I actually just ordered the 305 from Amazon because I like the push buttons better than the very sensitive touch screen. I will probably bounce back & forth between the two.

So, GOOD LUCK, GOOD LUCK, GOOD LUCK!!! I really hope you BQ - that is definitely a dream of mine as well. God bless :)

runner-grrl said...

Sharon, Great news on the regimen and getting back into it :-) I know it has been a long road for you, and I am thrilled to hear from you again.

I can't believe my moment is finally here; it has been two years in the making. Thanks so much for your encouragement! Stay tuned! -Alex

Demoboy said...

Good luck with your Marathon in Chicago!

Based on your workout results, I'm looking for you to run around 3:30 - 3:35. You are really fit, and running good workouts.

Hopefully Chicago won't be hot like the past couple of years, and you can get your Boston qualifying time.

runner-grrl said...

Demoboy, I'm going for the conservative approach, and will be thrilled with a 3:40. But thanks for your words of encouragement! My workouts have been super strong and I'm very pleased with my fitness going into Chi.

Last year was a hot one. Looks like I'll be shivering in the rain for this one. Just packed my raincoat in case...

Thanks for the visit! --Alex

Demoboy said...


Congratulations on your finish, and for qualifying for Boston! Good job.

Here are your unofficial results from the Race website.

Name Gardner, Alex (USA)
BIB 5347
Div 40-44
Split Time
START TIME 07:32:50
05K 00:25:53
10K 00:51:29
15K 01:17:12
20K 01:42:58
HALF 01:48:33
25K 02:08:40
30K 02:34:36
35K 03:00:39
40K 03:26:53
Place (total) 5588
Place (Gender) 1051
Place (Div) 131
Total (Net) 03:38:22
Total (Gun) 03:41:19

Sharon said...

Congratulations on your BQ!! I was tracking you and was so happy when you crossed that finish line with such an awesome time! You are awesome :)

runner-grrl said...

Demoboy, hey thanks for those splits! i still cannot find them myself tho i've logged in several times to look :-) Good to see the times as recorded!! was still thinking maybe i'd gone mad and just dreamed it (in a marathon finish line haze sort of way). -Alex

runner-grrl said...

Sharon, Thanks so much!! I was so happy and overwhelmed at the finish :-) I still cannot grasp it all. --Alex

Demoboy said...

Here's the link to those splits

runner-grrl said...

Thanks a bunch, Demoboy! --Alex

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I found it really helpful (and motivating)! How many days a week did you run? And what was your weekly mileage? I ran the NY marathon this past Nov in 4:04 and want to get my time down to 3:40 in order to qualify for Boston.

runner-grrl said...

Anonymous, Thanks for reading my blog and leaving me a message! I ran six days a week leading into this race. Although some weeks were higher, I ran mostly in the 55-65 mpw range. Congrats on your New York marathon! I'm looking forward to running INGNYC Marathon this year :) Best wishes on qualifying for Boston. You can do it! --Alex