{Garmin Forerunner 220 Review*}

My love for Garmin Forerunner’s began while training for my first marathon in 2008. As my mileage increased I quickly found it was super annoying to plot my running routes in advance so I knew how far I was running. I also didn’t enjoy using a simple wrist watch as knowing my time didn’t exactly tell me my pace. I had a goal of running a marathon in under four hours, and I felt I really had no idea how my runs were going in terms of pace. It is hard to stick to a goal without the data to give you feedback.

Despite this I didn’t buy a Garmin right away. I felt like I wasn’t a serious enough runner to buy such an expensive and advanced watch. Eventually I caved, and I was SO glad I did. What does it mean to be a serious runner anyway? There is no set mileage or qualifying pace we need to run. If you run, then you are a runner. Seriously!

The Garmin Forerunner 301 I purchased in 2008 served me well. In fact it still worked when my husband bought me a new one, but I was having troubles charging it. Sometimes it would not charge or would randomly turn on during charging instead of actually charging leaving me to find a dead Garmin and made me an unhappy runner. After using ponytail holders to position the charging cord just right too many times, I professed my need for a new watch. The only problem-while I love having the latest technology, I also find it super wasteful to always buy the newest model when the older version works fine. I didn’t want to spend my money on a new watch.
Lucky for me the husband does listen to me when I’m talking (most of the time), and he surprised me with a new watch for Christmas. Recently I was asked some questions about the watch, so I decided to finally do a review of the watch. I don’t like reading reviews of something technology related when the user has only had the product for a short time. After using the watch on most runs for the past six months, I feel I am ready to review it for others to decide if it is the right watch for them.

I consider the Garmin Forerunner 220 to be the perfect watch for most runners who do not race competitively or for money. The Garmin Forerunner 620 has some amazing features, but in reality most runners will not use these features making the $450 price tag steep. The 220 is much more reasonable coming in at $250 with a heart rate monitor.

Since the main purpose of this watch is to track distance and pace this is sort of important to a runner. I’ve found that after running in the same location for a couple of runs, the 220 will recognize where you are and will take only a minute or less to load satellites for you to be ready to run. Each time you travel more than 30 miles away from your “home” location or previous route plan for the Garmin to take a few extra minutes to recognize where you are and load satellites. Annoying? Yes. Dealbreaker-No! Again, if you tend to run in the same area for your runs (which I usually do) then this isn’t too much of an issue.


In terms of accurate distance measurement the 220 is on par with other GPS watches and apps. When running with both my Runkeeper app and the 220 to compare they do not always register the same mileage, but neither do both the Forerunner 220 and 301. This is actually common with many GPS devices and the disparities between devices tend to be rather insignificant (as in tenths of a mile). Running routes I’d mapped out prior to using the 220 seem to measure the same distance with the 220.

I’ve never had the Garmin drop a signal or quit working while running. The only exception is of course when you go where GPS can’t reach as in through a tunnel, under a long bridge, etc. No watch or app will be able to help you in those conditions.

My 220 lasts for 10-15 hours of actual running time. You can wear the watch while not in GPS mode and it will last for a week or so. This is solid battery time and it recharges very quickly (in a matter of a couple of hours).

Screenshot 2014-06-23 18.46.21
Under the training tab on the 220 are three useful features: My Workouts, Training Calendar and Intervals. My Workouts allows the runner to create a Garmin Connect account online (can be synced to the app for your phone, too) and download specific workouts you’ve selected or created yourself like the one above to your watch. Once you’ve selected workouts you can run them and track your results on your watch which can be synced to your phone and online account. Training Calendar allows runners to create just that and have it sync to your watch. Intervals allows you to create interval workouts such as 4×1 mile with 1:00 rest. The watch keeps track of your run and rest times and alerts you to run and rest. Intervals are editable so you can change them to any distance, number or rest time you want.

Keeps track of your activities by date and lets you review your pace, time, distance, calories, cadence and heart rate for each activity. It also tracks your laps which defaults as one mile, but could be changed. Totals are also kept track of here where you can review your weekly and monthly miles and total time spent running.

Records for times and specific distances (1 mile, 5k, 10k, half, marathon and longest run) are kept under this section.

Allows runner to tailor data screens and heart rate, set alerts for run/walking, pace and heart rate, change auto lap, turn auto pause on or off, turn auto scroll of data screens on or off, and set timeout periods (when your watch changes from GPS mode to simply a watch to save on battery.)

You can also add sensors and use bluetooth to connect your mobile device to your watch so all your workout data syncs to the Garmin Connect app. I have not been able to successfully do this after repeated attempts, so I simply use the online Garmin Connect and not the app. Other settings include creating alert tones, turning vibrations on and off (I love the vibrations at each mile) and setting an alarm with this watch.

Garmin Connect
Garmin Connect is where all your data is stored online. Honestly every piece of data you could imagine wanting to see is all there. See below from a long run I did this spring.
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Screenshot 2014-06-23 18.36.56
Screenshot 2014-06-23 18.40.58

Additional Notes:
I’ve run with this watch in the cold (windchills of minus 12 and actual temps below zero), in the heat (90 degrees plus), in the humidity and in the rain. I’ve used the 220 in races from half marathons to a 50k. I love that the 220 has a plastic wristband with holes making it easy to clean and way less smelly than the fabric band of the Forerunner 301. Imagine 5.5 years of sweat all in one strap that can’t be removed from its electronic device-or don’t because it’s pretty nasty. The purple color is super cute and the size is appropriate even for those ladies who have smaller wrists. The wrist band can also accommodate a wide range of wrist sizes and still be comfortable. Ryan has worn the watch too and attests to its comfort and fit for a guy.

Even considering all of these features some of you are probably still unsure. Now that running apps are available to track similar data for free some wonder why would you want to purchase a GPS running watch? The reasons are actually pretty strong. In my experience it can be annoying toggling between songs and your running app while running, and I often need to stop running to go back into my music or my running app for data or to change a song.

If this isn’t a problem, then the whole battery thing is. My iPhone never makes it tracking a run of more than 17 miles while using RunKeeper alone even when all other apps are closed and it is fully charged. That means no picture taking or music on the run either. That is so not cool during a long run or marathon. I should know as it happened to me during the Chicago Marathon a couple of years ago. Mile 17=dead iPhone and kill the music and knowing your pace. Good thing I loved that marathon course and all the fans!

Another battery killer-runs in the cold. My iPhone does not last long in the cold. Another bad combination-iPhones and rain. In remote areas my iPhone sometimes doesn’t find my location as well as my Garmin 220. Finally, Runkeeper simply doesn’t have all the features (alerts, training calendars, heart rate workouts,etc) my Garmin does. I do use RunKeeper on shorter runs and to track mileage, but it is just easier and more efficient to use my Garmin 220 on a regular basis. This also makes a happier runner!

The Garmin Forerunner 220 is seriously one of my favorite (if not my favorite) running accessories ever. I even find myself wearing it just for fun. If you are on the fence about the watch, I encourage you to think about how often you will use the watch and how long the watch lasts if taken care of (my last Garmin Forerunner lasted 5.5 years.) Divide the cost by miles or time spent wearing it and decide if it is worth it to you. I know it was for me.


And what else do runners love to take pictures of besides their sneakered feet? You guessed it! Their GPS watches with their running stats!

Hope this helps anyone out there thinking about whether or not a Garmin Forerunner 220 is for them!


Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way for this post.

{Chester Woods 50k Race Report}


Friday evening I headed to Rochester dreading feeling very uncertain about the 50k race the next day.  I didn’t feel prepared because I’d found a lack of motivation and fresh legs since running the Wisconsin Marathon five weeks earlier and the Med City Half Marathon two weeks earlier.  The end of the school year had me tired and stressed, too.  When I got to packet pick-up I was disappointed to find out they had packed up early.  I had arrived fifteen minutes before the end time, but left without my packet.  Next stop-the nearest grocery store for some breakfast items and snacks.  The nearest option was not my favorite…Wal-Mart.  I learned some great parenting tips for future use by the woman who yelled at her screaming kids “I told you all to shut your f8#$ing mouths.”  Awesome work, Mom!


Snacks the night before.

From Wal-Mart I headed to my hotel.  The hotel turned my frustration around a bit as I had a room on the second floor right by an exit where I was able to park my car three feet from the door.  Then it was time lay out my race gear and have a snack and some hydration before bed.  As I snacked away watching It’s Complicated (love that movie) I was going back and forth between the live feed of the WIAA State Track and Field meet checking in on some former students of mine (they rocked their events) and reviewing the 50k course for the first time.  I didn’t have much time though as my alarm was set for 4:45 a.m.  Yippy skippy!

The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and since I figured I’d be running for 5.5-6 hours I knew I needed to eat more than on a regular race day.  I ate a bagel with cream cheese and a banana, dressed and got on the road.  The race was only minutes away from my hotel and located at Chester Woods Park.

Upon arriving I didn’t have the five dollars to enter as I wasn’t aware of the entry fee, but they were friendly enough to let me in and pay after the race (thank you, thank you) which I did. Karma people.

After grabbing my race bib and chip I had time to run to the rest room and get my gear on.  I was running with my fuel belt.  Each bottle was filled with Grape Nuun.  I had four Gu’s in the pocket of my fuel belt.  My plan was to fuel for this race just like a marathon.  If I was getting hungry or the Gu’s were not enough I came prepared with Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Bunnies, a granola bar, a Snickers bar, a Bearded Brothers Bar and a Kind Bar.  Why so much?  I wanted to have what sounded good when I was twenty-some miles in.  And there really is no way to predict what would sound good so I came prepared.
I knew the course was a three loop mix of terrains, but hadn’t really spent a ton of time researching the course. The first few miles took us through a meadow like area. Meadows are my least favorite to run on because the ground is uneven and grass can hide this. Later in the day the sun also shines bright in an open meadow. Lucky for us that the biggest section of meadow was early on. Thank you race director!  We then headed on a gravel road that led to a wood chip trail and then a packed dirt and grass trail.  The woods were so beautiful.



After running through the woods we ran through a small meadow section before entering into my favorite wooded section of the course.  The canopy of trees engulfed the trail and it was like you were running into this other world.




After the woods we headed out to another meadow section that included a sandy hill before heading back into the woods.  Half of it is below.  My hill strategy was to walk hills that were longer than ten feet.  Most runners were walking hills to preserve their legs, too.  In the words of a man on the course “I surrender to the hills.”  Being a new trail runner I didn’t need to run a chain of mountains; these hills were enough but doable at the same time.



Loop 3-Mile 23-The smile hides the sharp pain in my hip flexors.


Next up on the loop was the Big Dam Hill.  It ended at a beautiful overlook of the Chester Woods Lake reservoir.  I loved how it was significant enough to have a name and everyone who ran the race before knew about the hill.




Still climbing the Big Dam Hill-almost to the top.

Most climbs are worth a view. This one didn’t disappoint either.  I didn’t want to stop to take a quality picture so I’m borrowing one. Credit: http://www.rochestercvb.org.  After the views of the lake from above we descended through a meadow to a small paved section of trail that joined a gravel and then dirt trail and ran along the lake.

This view of the lake was gorgeous.  All kinds of trees stood out of the water.  It was a lake of trees.

This view of the lake was gorgeous. All kinds of trees stood out of the water. It was a lake of trees.

From there we turned to repeat the loop two more time minus the first meadow section.  The first loop was 12 miles and the second and third loops were 9.5 miles for a total of 31 miles.  My Garmin registered a little short as I must have lost a half mile while in the woods at some points in the race.

During the first loop I felt good.  I was not in a fantastic mood, but it turned around as my body warmed up. The second loop felt much faster and I was feeling great, too.  Last Friday I traded a ten mile run for a 30 mile bike ride, Tuesday I ran almost six miles and I skipped my Thursday and Friday runs my training plan called for.  I just didn’t feel like running.  Most of my runs have been rough with dead leg feeling appearing during most my runs.  I just wasn’t feeling fresh. I debated running Thursday and instead chose a night out with friends. Saturday’s second loop proved to me I’d made the right choice.  My legs just needed some rest.  At mile 20 I remember saying to myself that I couldn’t believe how good I felt both for being at mile 20 and in general. I felt great.

At this point I was out of Gu’s having taken one at miles 5, 10, 14, and 18. I also didn’t want to waste time going to my car to get food as I stopped at the bathroom after the first and second loop losing four minutes or so from my time. I decided to grab food at aid stations since they had quite a selection. I grabbed Fig Newton’s and some pretzels from the friendly aid station volunteers when I was feeling low on fuel. Mention water and they grabbed your water bottle and happily filled it. They were so encouraging and helpful.  Thanks volunteers!


As lots of you probably have experienced, runs can take a turn for the worst at any mile.  My feeling great changed soon after mile 20.  Around mile 22 my hip flexors started to scream at me.  Lifting my legs felt hard.  My actual legs were feeling strong and alive.  I seriously questioned if I was going to have to walk the rest of the course.  This is where you start to run the race with your heart.  I pushed through and felt tears coming around mile 26, but was able to pull myself together.  I don’t even know where the tears came from.  It wasn’t from pain, it was more of an emotional response to running for a long time alone in the woods.  It was theraputic.

Around mile 27 the pain in my hip flexors all but disappeared.  As I climbed the last sandy hill another guy told me “I was like a ninja.”  That boosted my morale for a while.  The last few miles I felt pretty good.  I did a lot of self-talking and encouraging myself.  I actually felt like I could run further than 31 miles.  By mile 30 though I just wanted to be done.  I’d been running for over five hours.  My longest marathon time is 4:20 and my longest trail run had been 16 miles a few weeks earlier.  I couldn’t wait for that finish line.

When I did cross the finish line the feeling I remember more than tired or sore is proud.  I was proud of myself for not only running 31 miles, but for also running on trails and with hills.  As my first 50k I say it was a success and went much better than expected.  This just proves we can do anything we set our minds out to do.



I loved the course at Chester Woods Park.  The three loops was perfect for runners so they could restock items at their cars if they wanted.  The course was a perfect combination of beautiful views, shaded woods and a little bit of meadows.  I also loved the mix of terrains and that the hills were doable.  I’m not ready to run mountains-yet?  Or ever?  During my last loop of the 50k I thought about my husband’s feelings about running another marathon (he’s saying one and done) and if I felt the same about a 50k or further.  As of right now that is to be decided.  I always say never say never.


The shoes and I went through some real shit out there-literally and figuratively. Some of the trails we ran were horse trails. Those horses had been there before us runners had. 😉

Screenshot 2014-06-08 22.28.40
Chester Woods 50k
Time: 5:25:32
Pace: 10:30
Overall: 36/91
Gender: 7/33
Age Group: 4/15

{Black Friday-Running Gifts}


Need a gift for a runner? Any runner would love these ten things!
1. Pro Compression Socks-One of my favorite brands to run in. ($50-usually can find coupon codes online for 30-40% off)
2. Randies by Oiselle-These look so fun! ($48)
3. Stainless Steele Water Bottle-Great way to encourage and remind you to drink enough water. ($18)
4. Sweaty Bands-My go to running headbands ($18)
5. GU-My only fueling strategy for long runs (Box of 8/$11.60 or Box of 24/$31.50-again look for deals on certain sites)
6. Running iPhone Case-So cute, love! ($25)
7. Garmin 220-Seriously want! Why doesn’t Ryan read this blog. ($250)
8. Brooks Winter Running Jacket-Best way to get winter runs in is have the right clothes. You get what you pay for. ($150)
9. Yak Traks-A must for winter running in the midwest. ($30-40)
10. Nuun-Best way to rehydrate on runs. ($20 for 4 pack)

Happy Running and Shopping!