I've alluded to my new running toy a few times in previous posts, but I haven't blogged about it yet. The Garmin Forerunner 301 is a GPS-based workout tool. It combines a GPS, heart rate monitor, and some other training software. It tracks my distance, pace, elevation change, and heart rate as I run or bike. It also automatically calculates mile split times, tells me if I'm running faster or slower than the pace I set, and can even handle interval training (once I get around to inputting some workouts.) The 301 has a rechargable battery with good life; it recharges and downloads data to the PC via a mini-USB port -- pretty convenient.
The software Garmin provides is pretty bad, but fortunately, there's an awesome free application called SportTracks. This thing rocks. It's a good exercise log, provides tons of charts, and overlays my workouts over Google street maps and satellite maps. If you use a Forerunner, you simply must use SportTracks.
The device is reasonably easy to use to seems OK accurate (not sure if the weird paths on my maps are GPS errors, map errors, or software errors). The only downsides are that it's a bit big still (and dorky looking) and it takes a while to acquire the GPS signal each morning when I go out to run (although it's forced me to take longer stretching, albeit in the cold and rain.) Also, like all GPS units, it needs line-of-sight to the satellites in order to keep the signal. The Garmin does simple extrapolation of your path once it finds the signal again, but invariably, the path shorter than I really ran. Running under tree cover obviously poses problems (this is especially bad for me in my neighborhood.)
As many trainers advise, keeping a log is a good motivational tool as well as a good way to track your progress. The Garmin takes this to the next level and is fun, fun, fun for geeks like me.