Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Garmin...R.I.P.

"Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other." - Carrie P. Snow

Ok, I know it's me. Or as Scott, down at the Trak Shak calls it...User Error! Let's back up a little and paint a VERY clear picture. I am a numbers freak. I always loved math, I know how to figure out pitcher's Earned Run Averages (ERA's), I can tell you the incline of any hill in percentage and NOT degrees (degrees makes a whole lot more sense to me, but I just can't generate a meaningful argument with anyone on that front). I know how many miles in a light-year, and I'm fascinated by the fact that Pi has no repeating pattern after the decimal point...NONE, NADA...not a million places, not a BILLION places!! So, because of this, knowing EXACTLY how far I run is insanely important to me.

About 5 years ago, I bought my first Garmin for running - the old 101, I think. Anyway, it looked like an iphone on your wrist. If you've never seen one, stop Prince Whatley one day and ask to see his watch. He still uses it! Anyway, it was a little too clunky for me and after about a year, I pawned it off to John Gordon. Then, about three years ago, I upgraded my GPS watch to a Garmin 405 and most of the time it has performed very admirably. As a matter of fact, a little over year ago, I wrote a blog post about how these little running computers actually work. If you want to read (or hopefully re-read) that piece of literary genius, click here

Now, it had way more bells and whistles than I could ever need. It definately had a ton more technology than my first home computer, which, in turn, had a ton more technology than the first satellites I marveled at as a kid (heck, I marveled at a dial phone!). Some of it's peculuarities were sorta day I'm running along and look to see my distance and instead I'm staring at a compass!! A DAMN COMPASS!! I didn't even know it had a compass. What's worse is I couldn't get it to revert back to the original screen. I also later learned the Garmin wasn't designed with a sweaty runner in mind (duh?) or that running in the rain wasn't considered by Garmin Research and Development. Nope, unless you locked the touch bezel before your run, you were set up for all kinds of visual (or blank screen) surprises. I had several "Aw, crap" moments when that happened in the middle of a run.

So, now we fast forward to a couple of months ago when I was given a Nike+ Sportswatch. I won't go into all the issues I had with this watch, but it's GPS was a show in itself. Once, when running in Boston, I downloaded my 6 mile run (which it recorded as 9.78 miles!), and the GPS map had me running through buildings, in the Charles River, and over to Cambridge, which I never came within 2 miles of. Then, on another day I pushed the pause button and the whole watch went blank. I was sure it was charged. I was hacked because the record of my run was gone, regardless of how terribly inaccurate the watch was...or how terrible my run was. About every other run did the same thing. I never trusted it on longer runs - that was reserved for my more semi-reliable Garmin. I finally called Nike, explained my concerns, and after "kicking the tires" for an hour, the very nice Tech-guy said "exchange it!". So, down to The Trak Shak I went and they replaced the watch without blinking an eye.

Well, I'll be damned if the 2nd watch didn't do the same BLANK SCREEN thing again after pushing the start/pause/stop button. Not every time, but enough to cause me anxiety during my runs, and if there's one thing I don't need in my runs lately, it's MORE anxiety. So, I decided to just give the watch back to Trak Shak and not even ask for a replacement - it was just causing too much angst (I never get to use that word). Jeff (the Nike+ expert at the TS) wasn't there, and that's when Scott came up with his "user error" zinger - but I had to agree with him.

So, all was good. Until…
I was on a long training run a couple of days later and noticed that the display on my Garmin was starting to fade in and out. By the time I got to 11 miles...yep, blank screen!! This was ridiculous. Two watches and I can't even SEE an inaccurate time or distance on either one!I charged it up and it worked on short runs, but then, Mohammed Guivi and I were running the Ruffner Mountain High Crusher 21k Trail Run the very next weekend...full battery...plenty of hills yearning to have their elevation measured...plenty of miles to have their exactness measured...and me with a hunk of dead technology hanging on my arm.

So, here's the kicker of kickers!! I couldn't find anything in the user's manual or on the web about how to replace the battery. Wanna know why????? Well, do you???? It turns out that the battery is NOT replaceable!! The battery is welded to the innards of the watch and that's that. Dead battery = dead Garmin!! I found that if you jump through enough hoops, you can send your watch back to Garmin (in Austrailia, I think) and they will sell you a refurbished watch for about $185! Excuse me for a moment while I blow a gasket!
I just don't get it. Garmin does a great job of hiding the fact (at least from me) that your $300 watch will fail after about 3 years and then it will be Kaput! Just doesn't seem right.

But, the happy ending for me is that later that same week, Jeff (remember, the Nike+ expert) went for a run with my Nike watch #2 and it blanked out on him too (Thank God!) and he emailed me and said they would replace it AGAIN! Now, that's great customer service. So, I've been running with the Sportswatch for about 5 weeks now without a hitch. It's been accurate, it links up with the satellite quick (even in the house), I found a website to download to (Nike's site is TERRIBLE), and you know what? The battery is replaceable! Life is good again and I feel confident that my 4.06 mile morning run will always be 4.06 miles...give or take a few hundreths.

I'll see you on the roads, no matter how far they are - AL

Addendum: When I run alone, I usually listen to podcasts and pretty soon, I'm going to write about Pods I listen to. But, this morning, during a long run, I listened to the latest The Marathon Show. It's done by Joe Tariconi and this week's episode was recorded WHILE he ran the Disney Marathon. He is a funny, happy-go-lucky, guy and this epeisode was great and had me smiling, even at 16 miles! Give it a try.

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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