3 months with the Garmin Fenix 3

It’s been 3 months now since I received my Garmin Fenix 3 and wrote my initial review so I thought it time for an update.

The strangest thing about the watch is that the GPS seemed so accurate on those initial runs, showing clearly where I had run and making me happy with my purchase. Within a few days there were some issues, but GPS is never perfect and nobody should expect it to be. However, there clearly are some ongoing issues with whatever algorithms they are using because corners are constantly (and consistently) cut which means that overall distances are shorter than they should be.

Now, I have to say this doesn’t bother me too much but it does bother many people – a quick read of the Garmin forums will show that people are returning it, or debating returning it unless Garmin sorts it out soon.

I have taken part in several USATF certified races this year and every single one of them has measured short – if you know anything about how USATF certifies courses, then you will no that it would be impossible to run a shorter distance during one of these races. It would be very normal for a GPS watch to actually show longer than the race distance because it would be extremely difficult to stay on the shortest track around the whole course.

Why doesn’t it bother me too much?

  1. I mainly use the data to review and compare runs after I get back. During the run I may use it as a guideline to see how fast I have been going (average pace) and how far I have gone, but not to worry about what pace I am running at one particular time (it does seem to get that wrong too often to rely on).
  2. In some ways I like that it measures short – I know it’s not overestimating how many training miles I’m doing, and it also means that it is recording a slightly slower average pace because of that.

Why does it bother me a little bit?

  1. All of this data loads to services like Garmin Connect, Strava, Mapmyrun, etc. and those sites will automatically indicate when you hit a best time over standard distances – of course that is most likely to happen in a race, but if it doesn’t measure the whole distance, the site isn’t going to pick up on it.
  2. If I were in a longer race without mile markers, and if I didn’t know the course already, I might want to use my watch to let me know how much further I have to go – of course I can try to compensate for the shorter measuring from the watch but that’s a pain, and then what happens when they fix it and suddenly it’s showing me the actual distance?

There are conflicting reports over whether Garmin are working on a fix or not. Apparently this isn’t the first time they’ve released a watch with similar issues, so I would assume that at some point all will be well and most people will be happy with it again.

Ultimately it’s up to the individual how important this is to them – for me it’s not such a big deal although some improvement would be nice.

Update June 25, 2015: In the last couple of days Garmin have provided updates to address the accuracy issues. In my single run since installing the update, a run that was previously recorded at 8.3 miles was recorded at 8.6 and more accurately reflected the actual path I ran. The Garmin forums appear to show a mix of responses, with most noting that it is a definite improvement.

Newport 10k race report

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to write up my experience at the Newport 10k this year – I wasn’t sure I would do it this year, but I was offered a free entry thanks to this blog which made the decision easy. It should be noted that even if I hadn’t received that free entry I would have wanted to write this post exactly as it reads right now – I have written about it before (I’m actually surprised I didn’t write about it last year too), and in this case, I have very good reason for wanting to write about it again.

This year the weather was perfect, although a little chilly at the shaded start line. I wanted to get some extra miles in so I had already done a 2.3 mile warm up so I knew that I would be warm very quickly once the race got moving. During that warm up I spotted from a distance that it looked like someone was setting something up for a wedding either on or right by the course – I didn’t actually run that way but a friend did and warned them what was soon going to be happening and also told race officials about it. By the time we came around that part of the course during the race, the arch they were setting up had been moved to one side.

The condition of the roads was not great – at least from memory I don’t remember it being as bad in previous years – there seemed to a fair number of potholes to avoid which is maybe not surprising given the winter we had, and one particularly sharp turn was covered in slippery gravel – at least the course marshal there was warning everyone to be careful but it still almost caught me out but it didn’t require too much effort to avoid. There are also certain streets that clearly suffer from angry driver problems – I’ve seen it before in this race, and there seemed to be more of those this year too – in one particular place it seemed clear from the positioning of a car that someone had actually considered driving through, as he had swung out of the regular traffic line further over into the middle of the street.

This course is my 10k PR course, it is pretty flat, but it also has a lot of turns, particularly along the boardwalk stretch towards the finish, so perhaps I can do faster (I’m wondering if the upcoming Ridgewood 10k could do that for me). There is a chance as it looks like I have the potential to run faster than I thought I could right now. After an unsteady start to the year with a good performance at Miles for Music 20k, followed by a relatively poor Unite Half Marathon, and last week a reasonable Clinton 15k, I wasn’t expecting too much from Newport this year.

I set myself a goal of going out at around a 6:40 to 6:50 per mile pace to see how I felt (my average pace at the Clinton 10k was in the 6:50s so that seemed reasonable). For once I actually didn’t get too carried away at the start and I went through the first mile clock at around 6:43. After the second mile I was starting to think I could perhaps pick things up a bit and throughout the rest of the race I moved ahead slowly reeling in each person ahead of me pretty much all the way to the finish. I judged my effort perfectly as it wasn’t until the last 100m or so that I felt I had nothing left to give. Even though I was 3 seconds slower than my PR I was ecstatic – simply because this is how I always want to run races. It was perfect. I was still excitedly telling everyone about it the next day, even people who clearly had no interest.

I couldn’t stay around for long at the end – I grabbed some food (squagels are great), sat on the grass in the park area for a little while, and then did a short cool down and headed home because I needed to start preparing for setting things up for the Highland Park 5k the next day. This meant I didn’t get a chance to stick around for the raffle prizes which is a shame as the odds of winning something aren’t usually bad at all as a lot of people have already left.

A busy weekend

This past weekend started with the Newport 10k – I’ve enjoyed this race since the first time I did it a few years ago, and I will write more about that race in a separate post, hopefully tomorrow.

I had to leave that race fairly soon after the finish to prepare for the next day.

The next day was the event I’ve been preparing for since before January – The Highland Park Run in the Park 5k. I started preparing for this late last year in trying to redesign the course, and then getting the course certified by USATF. It’s always nerve-wracking when something you have been working on for so long is actually going to happen, but I didn’t get too bad a night’s sleep before it.

There were challenges on race day (and a bit the day before) – tables showed up late, and with a huge number of on the day sign ups we realized that the event was going to be more popular than it ever has been before – this year we had about 100 more finishers than last year, taking our numbers over 500 for the first time. This meant we were short on t-shirts, and later in the race it turns out short on water bottles at the finish too. At least there’s a water fountain there though.

As this was the race that started my running addiction, I have to run it, so I jumped in on the start line to take part. The new course seemed to work out well, and it seemed that this year we didn’t have to deal with some of the problems of previous years with drivers on the course so perhaps we were more effective at getting the word out. It was a tough race and I’m sure that was in part because of the 10k the day before, but I managed a 19:48 to win my age group, and get 15th overall (same position as last year I believe).

The men’s race had ended in a sprint finish with Ezra Chevitz of Edison, NJ winning in 17:37.1 and Rufino Mendez of Metuchen, NJ extremely close behind with 17:37.8. Third place was taken by Zachary Subar of Highland Park, NJ with a time of 17:55.7.

The women’s race was just as exciting with all 3 top placed women coming in one after the other, and the 4th place woman also close behind. Ali Horton of New Brunswick, NJ took the top spot in 20:51.4, followed by Rebecca Chant of Highland Park, NJ in 20:52.5, followed by Danae Younge, also of Highland Park, in 21:00.0.

After I finished I stood near the entrance to the final stretch on the track to cheer people in – several of my coaching group were running and I wanted to see how they did and cheer them on. One of them had asked me what time I thought they would get and I gave an estimate which turned out to be uncannily accurate, and when she saw the clock on the final straight she pushed herself to beat that time and came in about 10 or 15 seconds faster than my prediction.

As with last year the kids races that followed the 5k on the High School track were very well attended, and a lot of fun. My kids both took part, and my little one, who is 5, took me completely by surprise with his speed – I have never seen him move so fast and he had the biggest smile on his face the whole time.