Quick, what word comes to mind when you think "Ironman"?
Robert Downey Jr.?
What about Timex? It seems as though Timex has been around since the beginning, but often gets overlooked within the triathlon world outside of brand loyalists. They were tracking splits and miles before GPS was fully operational in 1994. Timex has been around since 1854, but not until recently have they ventured into the GPS game.
The Timex Run Trainer is their answer to bringing all of the features in Timex watches that have been loved by triathletes to a GPS watch that is now the staple training device. A triathlete without a GPS watch is like a duck without feathers. Splits, distance, speed, pace, heart rate... triathletes have to have it.
Lucky for the loyal readers of EMT, Timex sent a Timex Run Trainer into the labs for some thorough testing. After running outdoors, indoors, on tracks and treadmills, check out what EMT thinks of this Timex GPS watch.
It's got style. The first GPS watches for most companies are large clunky. Timex took their time and shoehorned all their features into a slick and aesthetically appealing training watch. What's an added bonus is the ability to use the Run Trainer as a regular watch when not recording data. The time display can be adjusted to show date and time either by GPS or by manual adjustment. Most GPS watches don't focus on calendar time and very few have a dedicated display for it when the watch is in off mode. That all backs up the point that the Run Trainer can be used as a normal everyday watch without raising eyebrows by it looking out of place outside of running. The size is comparable to a Garmin 910XT, slimmer and slightly smaller than the 310XT and Timex Global Trainer. Another great functional feature is the wrist strap. The slots on the strap and the notched strap loop fit securely together to prevent the strap loop from slipping up and down the strap, allowing the end of the strap to get caught on clothes or other objects.
With any training watch, it needs to be set up. Sure, if time is of the essence, then the Run Trainer could potentially just be charged , turned on and start running. But, if calories, heart rate, zones and alerts are of interest, dedicate 30 minutes to at least understanding the bare minimum to getting the watch setup. For fine tuning, the full manual will need to be downloaded from the Timex web site and a good hour could be potentially filled making sure every setting is adjusted to desired user specifications. Make time on the front end in order to save time later when results don’t match expectations due to watch setup. An issue with the whole setup process and adjusting of features is the button sequences required to get to each menu. The labels for buttons and the necessity for multiple button sequences can be confusing without the manual. Adjustments on the fly require keen memory skills to be efficient and quick to make adjustments in the field. If the manual is unavailable and users forget the button sequence, sizable chunks of time could be lost messing around with the menus.
Fear not. For all the time that could be spent in setup, it could be reduced to a fraction of the time using the Device Agent to adjust settings. A great feature of Timex is the ability to sit at a computer in a controlled environment and directly adjust settings without having to worry about button sequences. It can be done at any time during data transfer or charging on a computer USB port. Quick and efficient. The settings can also be exported to a file for future re-install in instances of firmware updates, watch crash, refurbishment or reloading into a new device.
A handy feature is the eat and drinking alert. During setup, users can set separate times for the RT to alert athletes when to take in fluids and nutrition. What’s even more slick is the alert flashes either “Drink” or “Eat” depending on the current alert. Other brands allow for distance and time alerts, like the RT, but few will give users the option for those specific alerts.
For any savvy internet shopper, the Timex Global Run Trainer can be found for around $160 before tax and shipping, new. Remember the competitors need to have GPS, measure speed, distance, pace and be able to read ANT+ devices such as footpods and heart rate monitors. This puts in right in the sweet spot with competitors that offer the same features. It might come down to brand and appearance when price is equal across watches.
Speaking of ANT+, anyone who’s anyone in the triathlon or running world knows that if you aren’t running with an ANT+ compatible GPS device, you will be VERY limited. The Timex RT works with footpods (which Timex supplied a footpod for this review and it worked with no issues), heart rate monitors of various brands. For this review, the RT was used with Garmin, CycleOps, Timex and Mio ANT+ devices. This allows for very precise measurement for heart rate zones for training. The footpod allows for indoor or any use without GPS satellite signal. It even provides cadence information while using GPS. This is important for those trying to increase their running cadence. The Run Trainer worked in all conditions; inside on treadmills, indoor tracks, outdoors on streets and sidewalks, rain, snow, cold and heat.
One limiting factor for some might be the software required to review the data. Timex and Trainingpeaks have an exclusive deal where the files will download to a TP account. The good news is that anyone can set up a limited TP account for free and look at their data. The files can be exported from TP, but the file type is limited and will not cross brands to say a Garmin file. Once you go Timex, you go TP. TP isn’t a bad thing. Once you get the files in, all the data is available for slicing and dicing any way athletes can think of. Charts and graphs will show heart rate, cadence, pace across distance and time for dissection by the uber-obsessive of athletes. See screen shot of a long run workout (no comments on lack of speed or erratic heart rate data from the peanut gallery).
You can potentially use the Run Trainer for other sports. It won’t record the workout as biking or swimming, but being that the RT is waterproof and uses GPS, it can go into a pool and the lap feature can be used just as it is in running. It can be brought along on the bike and used just the same. It will show speed and distance just like any other bike computer and it more accurate than a simple bike computer. Just buy the bike mount and pedal down the road. Potentially the Timex Run Trainer can be a poor triathlete’s multisport GPS watch. And lets face it, with how much gear costs these days, triathletes need affordable options now more than ever.
In addition to the standard running, the RT can be set up for interval training that will issue alerts on set durations of time. It can be used in timer mode for pure countdown timing and has endless possibilities to be set up for very specific workouts.
When ran simultaneously with other brands, the Timex RT was data point for data point on par with others. There were no fluctuations in heart rate, speed, pace or cadence that would raise suspicion that the RT would be inferior in any aspect.
One drawback (and this could be said for a lot of GPS watch brands) is the need for individual cables for each Timex device. The Run Trainer will need a different cable than the Global Trainer. If someone was to run across getting the watch (say on ebay used), they will need the specialized cable as well even if they have other Timex products. It would be nice if GPS brands would find a way to make the charging and data transfer cables universal from device to device, such as the way of the phone industry.
In closing, the Timex Run Trainer is a fabulous GPS running watch. It does everything that athletes would need from a running watch and could be extended to cover multisport disciplines to accommodate triathletes and duathletes. The watch is dependable, consistent and stylish. Users can wear it on the path, biking, swimming or out in everyday life as a watch and not have to worry about looking out of place. Five stars for the Timex Run Trainer.
*Writer’s note - Timex supplied the Run Trainer, heart rate strap and the footpod for this review and in no way influenced this review. Special thanks to Bob Mitera at Kokua Multisports for the use of the TP account for data evaluation.
Ryan Falkenrath is a married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. He writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, Endurance Sports Examiner and runs the Man Vs Triathlon project while participating in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans (soon to be Ironman distance in 2013). Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.