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Timex Ironman Run Trainer GPS Review; Patagonia 50% Off Sale; VIVOBAREFOOT 20% Off Fall Sale

Posted Oct 15 2012 12:00am

A few unrelated odds and ends before today’s product review …

This month VIVOBAREFOOT is launching its Fall 2012 line with a 2-week promotional offer for me and for you.  I get a new pair of shoes to review, which will be posted next week.  You get 20% off of any item in their catalog – even the super-lightweight Ultra water/running shoe and the popular Ra dress shoe – when you use coupon code RUNNINGANDRAMBLING20.  The sale ends on November 1, so get moving .

The response to my CLIF Bar Meet the Moment giveaway contest has been somewhat lukewarm so far – meaning that your odds of winning are pretty good if you take the few minutes to enter.  The contest runs through October 31, so head back to this post for full details.

A couple of weeks ago I introduced Massey's Outfitters as a new affiliate sponsor, and mentioned that they carry the entire line of current Patagonia apparel.  And now for a limited time, they’re offering a significant portion of that catalog at up to 50% off; click the banner below to go shopping.

Back in June my friend Mike and I wrote a Monterey Herald article about how a past winner of the Big Sur Half Marathon later tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, and how the race took extraordinary measures to award the proper prize money to other top-5 finishers whose awards were impacted.  Well, guess what?  It turns out that the 5th place runner in that same race was also using drugs at the time, as this week’s New York Times article describes.

What stands out most about this article are two points:  1) the runner in question has one of the most matter-of-fact “Yup, I did it, I got busted, life goes on” mentalities that I’ve seen from a drug cheat thus far – which in itself may indicate the extent of the problem in amateur racing.  Also, 2) the drug enforcement business, as well as any efforts by race organizations to do the right thing, is getting trickier and more complicated every day.  

That's all for now.  On with the review!

GPS reviews are few and far between around here, primarily because I have the same minimalist philosophy about gadgets that I have about shoes: the simpler, the better. 

I don’t place much stock in the number of bells and whistles, or even in the computer interface for uploading workouts (which I almost never do).  Rather, I want something that’s comfortable, easy to use, and accurate.  Like I said: simple.

You may recall my favorable review of the Soleus GPS 1.0 , a small and simple device that gives basic time and distance, and comes at a very affordable price point of under $100.  By comparison, today’s product offers a significantly expanded range of features for a price point that is marginally higher - $225 retail, but currently discounted to , where I've periodically seen it priced even lower - and is an extreme value for what you get.  It also comes from one of the biggest players in the endurance sports industry.
Timex Run Trainer GPS; photo from Timex website

I started testing the Timex Ironman Run Trainer GPS in early summer, and it immediately became my preferred GPS for long training runs and family hikes.  It’s easy to operate, and for my preferred use includes one key feature that my Soleus device doesn’t: an altitude setting that tells you your current elevation as well as how much vertical climbing you’ve done.  For obvious reasons, those are nice stats for an ultrarunner to have while training for Leadville.

Truthfully, the Run Trainer is also chock full of options that I don’t use – and as I typically do when reviewing a GPS device, I’ll refer you to DC Rainmaker’s detailed breakdown of the Run Trainer if you want in-depth information for everything this watch can do.  Trust me, you’ll be impressed.  I’ve also included a how-to video from Timex at the end of this post for further information.

L to R: Timex wristwatch, Soleus GPS (with dead battery), Timex Run Trainer 

I’ve only experienced two downsides of the Run Trainer in my testing.  The first is that it’s substantially larger than my regular Timex watch, and noticeably larger than the Soleus GPS that I first tested last winter.  However, it doesn’t feel cumbersome while running, and I’ve worn it for multiple high-mileage outings without any discomfort from the size.  

Side view, top to bottom: Timex Run Trainer GPS, Soleus GPS, Timex wristwatch

The other (and most frustrating) problem that I had in testing was that I had all kinds of trouble making the device compatible with Windows 7.  I followed all of the instructions for downloading the Training Peaks program and transferring data from my watch to the computer, but kept bumping into the following error message:

"TP Device Agent has stopped working"

I asked my Timex rep about the problem, and was told to try the “uninstall and reinstall” strategy.  When that didn’t work after a few tries, I was referred to Timex tech support, who referred me to Training Peaks tech support, who referred me back to Timex … basically, nobody wanted to own the issue, other than to tell me it was a known problem for Windows 7 users.  I never did get the device to work on my home laptop or desktop, and finally used the oldest computer in our house which runs Windows Vista, which is where I eventually got the program to work.

If you’re inclined to do so, you can download workouts to your computer and dissect them pretty much any way you’d like to.  And if you’re one who uses Training Peaks for your daily workout log, the Run Trainer will integrate seamlessly with that program.

However, since I don’t download workouts, I’m mainly focused on how the Run Trainer works as a daily use GPS, and on that basis I’ve been very happy with it.  I love how the numbers are large and easy to read, even with four lines of data.  I like the option of customizing different display screens that can be scrolled during your run.  And with an 8-hour GPS battery life and water resistance to 50m, the Run Trainer functions equally well through a 30-mile training run or a driving rainstorm.

Large, easy-to-read numbers at mile 25.  In a related story, I used to be in pretty decent shape.

Most importantly, the GPS and altitude measurements are super accurate.  The Run Trainer uses SiRFstar IV GPS technology, which is reportedly among the fastest and most reliable signals (note: I have no idea if this is true; that’s just what the ad copy says).  It maintains its signal in canyons and under tree cover, and the altitude readings are usually within a few feet of marked elevations on almost every landmark I’ve encountered.

At the top of Clouds Rest in Yosemite, which my map says is 9930'.  Pretty darn accurate!

Until recently, if you wanted a GPS with the number of features that the Timex Run Trainer has, you’d have to shell out 400 bucks and wear a device the size of a deck of cards on your wrist.  It’s great to see both the price point and physical size of these devices decrease as technology has improved, and the Run Trainer is a very attractive choice for an affordable feature-dense GPS for high-demand everyday use.

The Timex Run Trainer GPS retails for .

“Timex Ironman Run Trainer GPS: Getting Started” by Timex USA (click to play):

*Product provided by Timex USA.  Affiliate sales support Running and Rambling.
**If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

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