Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Timex Ironman Review

Feels a little weird to be reviewing a watch, but honestly there are a lot of features that go into a decent training watch and I think this one hits pretty close to the mark. The watch is the Timex Ironman 50-Lap Sleek and it has a lot of features that cater to training.

First off comfort. The term "sleek" is maybe marketing a little bit, but it certainly has a low profile and it does not look too big. The band is also an appropriate size for my "runner's wrist" and includes a little catch on the band restraint to keep it at the end of the band. This means that it does not move as I run which has been an annoyance with other watches I have worn. As for timekeeping, I do not really wear a watch outside of running, but the display is easy to read and it displays the date along with the time. There are also options for two time-zones and three alarms. The watch features "Indiglo" as well for all of the functions, which is useful if you like to run your track workouts at 4am when it is pitch black. The light is no substitute for a headlamp though and it will not help you if someone happens to leave a hurdle on the track the night before (I'm not saying that I know this from experience).

From a training perspective is where this watch really gets going. The chronograph is easy to read and will continue running even as you access the watch's other features. The start/split button is located on the watch face, which is essential in making it easy to push and find when you are timing splits in a race. When you hit the split button during a workout it displays the split and the lap time for a few seconds before changing the display to show the split and the next lap time. Having the current lap time displayed is great as I can check on my pace before the interval is finished (i.e. I can check the 400 split on an 800 repeat without having to push the split button). After you are done running your session you can store the time and splits, for up to 50 lap times. The watch will record the time and date for the workout as well for you to log later, which is probably the most useful feature given that I often do not get a chance to log runs for a couple of days.

Another feature that I anticipate making more use of in the next few months is a dual interval timer. You can set two interval times (i.e. an interval time and a recovery time) to repeat indefinitely during a workout. So you can start the chronograph, warm up and then start the interval timer. It will then beep when you need to either start or end an interval, recording the number of repetitions as it goes. Once you are done with intervals, you can stop the timer, and cool down with your total workout time still recorded by the chronograph. This will help with my speedwork this winter as I find it tough to get to the track, so I can run timed intervals on whatever route I choose. This feature can be set in seconds, minutes or hours so it can also be used to remind you when to take gels or electrolytes on longer runs.

These features easily make this the best training watch I have owned, the only feature lacking in this model is heart-rate sensing, but I believe there is a higher-end model that includes this feature. In my case the lack of heart-rate monitor is actually a plus as I find this interferes with the treadmill sensor. I can now wear my HR strap on the treadmill and monitor my HR there while timing the workout with the watch.

A well balanced review always includes some cons, so here are the minor annoyances I can think of. As I mentioned above the watch has no GPS/foot pod/HR capabilities, but I think these features are unnecessary anyway. Another minor inconvenience is the fact that the watch band is stuck in a "round" position and is quite rigid. This makes it easy to put on, but it will not fold flat for easy storage in a gym bag pocket.

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