I line up at the start of any and every race thinking it’s hilarious that I am actually there. I wasn’t a massive fan of PE at school and I’m fairly certain it was only because I was friends with girls much better at sport than me, that I wasn’t picked last. When I turned 30 though, I decided I wanted to run 5k and believe me that took some training physically and mentally after making the excuse for a good fifteen years that small people simply aren’t meant to run. Yet four triathlons, two marathons and many 10ks later, dare I say…I find myself enjoying it? I still don’t think of myself as any kind of athlete, even enthusiastic amateur seems too kind so it may seem odd that I’m writing a blog about a sports watch! Let me explain though; if I can take part in these events anyone can, with just a bit of motivation and encouragement and actually that’s exactly what sports watches can provide.
Whilst I may never be at the front of the field, the one person I do like to beat is myself so measuring runs, checking my pace on the bike and downloading a whole host of other data about my mediocre performances makes me feel like the Brownlee Brothers!
My first impressions of the Suunto was that it was quite large but I was pleasantly surprised when I put it on that it didn’t feel bulky or heavy at all. The added bonus is the overall look is that of a watch I’d wear every day not just for sports – in fact it got the thumbs up from that ultra-critical, uber-fashion conscious group… the 16-18 year olds that I teach in my day job.
GPS lock took only a few seconds and this was with only standard GPS switched on, I would imagine that had I enabled GLOSNAS also then the lock would have been quicker still. In fact, it loaded before I’d finished my stretches, unlike times in the past when I’ve felt like I’ve nearly done a full yoga class before my older watches have found a satellite.
Information provided on the first screen is useful (Pace / HR / Distance), but you can also then scroll through other screens. In particular, I liked that you could quickly see the time for your last 3 or 4 laps, and also see a graphical breadcrumb trail of your route. This would be very useful if you became lost to easily enable you to retrace your steps back to a known location. Ok I say “you”, I mean this has happened to me before and I had to phone home for help figuring out where I was.
I ran with another GPS sports watch to validate the distance and times and they were pretty together the whole time, certainly within an acceptable difference. My first run out with the Suunto was a route I enjoy and know like the back of my hand, again allowing me to check the validity of the distance and times compared to the hundreds of times in snow, frost, sleet, rain, wind and finally, thankfully this time for what felt like the first time this year, sun! Throughout the run, the large display was great for assessing pace and distance with a quick glance.
Pairing the Suunto with my iPhone was very fast and very simple. It detected the watch without having to put it in a pairing mode, and the whole process (including downloading my first run) only took about 30 seconds and I think the app is really well-designed and user-friendly. For me one of the best things is having this app with all your data at your fingertips and I would never describe myself as a techie-geek (although I admire all those who are!) but to be able to look back over my last few runs, bikes and brick sessions comparing my stats is just ace. Nothing motivates you like seeing you were a bit faster over that last ride than you were a week ago or that you’ve beaten your previous best pace. It’s recording these incremental improvements that help a reluctant runner like me, want to get better.
It’s even making me step up my training; I’ve done the Keswick Mountain Festival triathlon before and have to admit my training has previously been unscientific at best and teetering on haphazard at worst. Wearing the Suunto and collecting my data has given me a firmer routine. I’ve used the navigation features to plan routes that I think will be similar to Keswick in length and elevation (so, you know, hilly!) and I’m finding tiny marginal gains in my pace that are helping me get faster (or just less slow!) and stronger overall. In time, it may actually get me to the point of not feeling like a fraud on the start line!