A Tale of Two Garmins

Forerunner 110 vs. FR60

Two watches, both alike in make and purpose, in bonny Scotland, this story takes place…. Enough paraphrasing Shakespeare, it’s my Garmin tragedy, finally!

You’ve briefly read about my Garmin issues I’ve alluded to in the past, always with promises of writing THE Garmin post. Now, I can finally say, the time has arrived.

My story starts back on Christmas Day, 2012: we were at my in-laws after a delicious and plentiful Christmas dinner, and a nice relaxing evening with my in-laws and their dogs that I love so much. Sweatshop, one of the running gear websites I’ve used in the past, was advertising a massive sale on Garmins. After seeing blog post after blog post of other blogger friends posting Garmin-related photos and stats, I knew I wanted one. At the time, I was using the MapMyRun app on my phone, and it just wasn’t cutting it anymore! I wanted more. I ordered the Garmin FR60 footpod watch, which was on sale for £100. At the time, I thought I had lucked out buying a watch with a heart rate monitor, footpod and USB stick to transfer data from my watch to my laptop wirelessly.

Rachel had suggested I try what she had, the Garmin Forerunner 110, but I was so caught up in my ‘deal’ and the fact I was now going to be part of the Garmin club, that I didn’t seriously consider her very smart suggestion. You see, sometimes I get really impulsive with things, and rather than doing research and thinking it through, I go for it without finding out more information first. This is something I most usually regret, and I’m trying not to do this so much but it’s hard.

A week or so later, my Christmas gift to myself arrived in the mail:

To: Danielle…. From: Danielle

I was so excited! I would now have accurate information about virtually every aspect of my run: my heart rate, my cadence (how often my feet touch the ground), how many steps I took in the run, along with my pace per mile, calories burnt, distance run and time. It was fascinating! So much information for a five mile run! And to top it off, I didn’t have to connect my watch to my laptop to upload my runs to Garmin Connect, the watch corresponded with the USB stick to do it wirelessly and effortlessly, it was too good to be true.

One thing that got me with the FR60’s packaging and set up was that the owner’s manual was tiny. Considering the watch had many settings and sports in which those settings work, I expected the owner’s manual to be more substantial. I wanted to know what all the settings for running, like Virtual Partner (which tells you how much slower/faster than desired pace you’re running), Race Mode (which has the watch waiting for you to press start rather than going into power saving mode – a feature Garmin users are well aware of), Training Pages, Auto Lap and Auto Pause (time stops when you stop running, and resumes when you start running), did. I wanted my watch to beep at every mile and to be able to set it to timed intervals, like my friend Amy’s Garmin. I guess I would have to figure it all out because remember, I didn’t do much research and look into things too deeply.

My FR60 and I were best friends: I had a renewed drive to run, so I began to pick the pace up a bit. One of my highlights with the watch was when were in Germany this past February: I had run my first progression run. Each mile was progressively faster than the one before, and because we were in flat north west Germany, my mile splits were uncharacteristically fast. I loved running in Germany because of this, and was excited to see what this would translate into once I returned to hilly Laurencekirk. Another highlight of my FR60 was running my first sub-9 minute mile on a non-downhill section; this watch was motivating me to push myself to be faster!

Then things started getting a bit weird. Amy and I would notice discrepancies between the distances on our two watches. I thought maybe mine was having issues with the GPS signal, because I hadn’t read enough about my watch to know that it wasn’t GPS, and it in fact relied on the footpod for everything, (which explained why my routes and route elevation never showed up in Garmin Connect). I had naively bought a watch that I actually didn’t know much about. More differences in distance started to occur, so I looked up FR60 reviews to see what people actually thought about the watch. Was my £100 impulse buy such a good buy after all?

One very indepth review I read wrote about the calibration of the FR60’s footpod technology; my Garmin was not a GPS one, and that explained the no maps thing. It explained that you could calibrate your Garmin to your footpod manually or automatically, and that it should be very accurate. This renewed my faith in my watch, and reassured me that I had bought the right one. I looked up the information on how to calibrate the FR60 on the Garmin website, and followed the instructions for manual calibration, (just click on the links if you’re curious, I won’t bore you with details). I also found the extended version of the owner’s manual online and downloaded it, and bookmarked the FR60 forum page for every FR60-related issue anyone’s ever asked about. I was going to educate myself and make this watch do wonders!

It was one of the last runs before the Balmoral 10km, after months of fast running during the winter, that reality hit: I had completed a very slow six mile run with my running group, and exclaimed “6.5 miles, awesome!” Nanette from my running group, who was wearing her GPS Garmin, said that the run was only 6 miles, not 6.5. I was in disbelief and began thinking back to all my fast runs up until then. Were they actually that fast after all? Had I been fooled all this time by my watch, and was still running the same slower pace? Amy and I continued to have different distance readings on our Garmins, and the gaps were getting bigger and bigger. That night, I went on MapMyRun, and sure enough, the 6.5 miles was only 6. I calibrated my Garmin for the first time in hopes that it would work well for that weekend’s 10km race.

Well, it didn’t. And every subsequent run after that was just all over the place for distance. I had changed the setting on my watch from Pace to Speed to help with intervals for my new training programme, and it now beeped every 400m or so. I was calibrating it manually at least twice a week, and no matter what, the distance was always off. I finally did an automatic calibration, where you run or walk a set distance while the footpod tracks it, then make adjustments if necessary, but the watch was still incredibly inaccurate. What was the point?

As well, my watch was no longer corresponding with the USB stick to upload runs wirelessly. I even uninstalled then reinstalled the ANT Agent software, which facilitates data transfer, but with no such luck. As they say in Scotland, my watch was truly scuppered.

The good thing in all of this was that I had discovered how to use the interval alerts on the training setting of the watch. I’ve used it for my interval running and exercises, and it’s also helped with tempo runs as well. In that way, I do love the FR60.

Amy had suggested I return the watch to Sweatshop, so I emailed them about this. They replied by saying that I needed to provide the receipt or proof of purchase of the watch in my bank statement, and they were happy to exchange it for something else. I checked my UK bank accounts for the purchase, and couldn’t find any purchases made to Sweatshop between late December and early January. I checked my Canadian account and credit card, and again, no evidence to show that money had been taken from  me to pay for this now crap watch. I emailed Sweatshop again, and they gave me precise dates to check between, as well as what the company name would be; I scoured my accounts, and again, nothing. Again, I emailed and was met with the reply “Well, it seems you are the recipient of a free watch. Unfortunately, we can’t help you with this, but as the watch is still under warranty, you can contact Garmin directly. We apologise for the inconvenience.” Well at least my money wasn’t wasted!!!!! Someone joked that maybe they purposely sent me the defective watch to get rid of it. Who knows.

So what did I do with that £100 that was never spent? I spent it on a new GPS Garmin, that’s what! I went with Rachel’s suggestion of the Forerunner 110, and bought the unisex black and grey one from Amazon, for about £115 including shipping. Bargain! I could also pair my existing FR60 heart rate monitor with the Forerunner 110, so I didn’t need to shell out more to buy the women’s Forerunner 110 with HRM; this also helped me decide between my watch and the Garmin Forerunner 10 (regardless of how much I loved the bright green!). I rush ordered it so the watch would arrive in time for the Montrose 10km, and low and behold, the Friday before the race, I got home to this:

Relief at last
The Forerunner 110 came with much less than the FR60: a USB cable to charge the watch and transfer data to Garmin Connect, a UK plug adapter and a European plug adapter, and of course, a tiny owner’s manual (but with twelve different versions for European languages).
With FR60 heart rate monitor

When you first set up the Forerunner 110, you must charge it. I think the way my watch charges is so neat! It has four small metallic dots under the face:

These dots correspond with four teeth on the charging head. The dots and teeth must be properly aligned for data to be transferred and charging to be able to happen.

The Forerunner 110 doesn’t have nearly as many settings as the FR60, but it does have the one most important thing the FR60 didn’t: GPS.

I don’t get as many post-run stats from the Forerunner 110 as I did with the FR60, but at least I know that everything the new watch is telling me is accurate. Below is a sample of the run summaries from the Forerunner 110: 9.63 refers to distance, 1:52:53 refers to the time it took to run (or run-walk in this case – more in another post), 1161c refers to calories burnt (based on your height and weight you input on initial set up), and 11:43 is average pace (long, slow run, okay?).

And best of all, the Forerunner 110 gives you maps of your routes and tracks elevation!!!!!!

The reason we run-walked some of the 9.63 miles
While my epically long Garmin tragedy had a happy ending, it didn’t come without frustration and hassle. I think had I persevered with learning to work my FR60, I could’ve made it better, but part of me thought I shouldn’t have to do all of this for the sake of accuracy; if I’ve paid this much, it should already be accurate. I’m still going to use my FR60 for interval timing because that’s something the new watch doesn’t do (as far as I know), but now my love lies with the Forerunner 110. I never knew how I was going to run certain paces if I didn’t actually know what they felt like, but the Forerunner 110 helps me with this: it tells me my pace as I’m running, and I credit this feature with the smart pacing and PR’s I got in the Montrose 10km as a result. I am a very happy customer.
In other news, I passed my test!
They didn’t tell me how many I got right, but considering they give you 45 minutes to write the test, and I wrote it and reviewed it in five minutes, I think I did well. Now, it’s time to send in my massive application and all the relevant ‘evidence.’
I also ran the Aberdeen Beach run 10km last night, and will write a recap soon, and include some exciting news!
I could conclude this Garmin saga with another Romeo and Juliet paraphrased ending, but instead I’ll quote Gordon Ramsay from The F Word: Garmin post – done, (without proof-reading, hope there’s not so many incoherent mistakes as last post!).

6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Garmins

  1. Congratulations on passing the test! I knew you would 😉

    Also, can't wait to read your race recap.

    OMG reading this now makes me realize just how frustrating your Garmin drama must have been! I'm really glad you have the 110 now and that you like it 🙂 Kind of funny how you were never actually charged for the first one! Do you have any issues with it taking a long time to locate the satellites? My Forerunner 10 is pretty quick but my 305 used to take forever!

  2. Thanks Hyedi! The race recap is coming, it won't be as eventful as others.

    I'm glad all my drama is over. It's kinda weird with the Forerunner 110: at times, I'm still finding it hard to trust, and I'm still amazed with all the information I get from it. It's so effortless.

    Mine usually takes less than a minute to locate satellites; the only time I've had to wait a few minutes was at my house, out in the country.

  3. Congratulations!!! So happy for you for passing.

    And oh my Garmin drama!! But you sound totally like me – I get overexcited about buying something that I totally don't do all the research that I need to do. But so funny that they never actually charged for the first Garmin!! I've been thinking about getting one. I've been using some running apps on my phone which is fine but I kind of want the new toy haha. Now I know which one I should get!

  4. For some reason, I thought you had a Garmin already! I was exactly the same with the running apps, but found that I wanted more information about my runs. I'm incredibly impressed with my GPS Garmin, especially all the information I get on Garmin Connect. I know some people don't use Garmin Connect at all, but I find it very useful and just so neat! Add a Garmin to your birthday wishlist!

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