time to upgrade time?

Submitted by 8r4d on July 15 2022

July 2022

Having checked (and rechecked) the tracking information from the retailer's website it's become a near certainty that within the next 24 hours my new Garmin Fenix 6X is going to land on my doorstep in a neat little cardboard box.

If I'm counting right, this will be my fifth new GPS watch since taking up the sport (seriously) about 14 years ago.

Did I need to upgrade? My six year old Garmin 3X has been a trusty companion for a lot of years. It saw me through the NYC Marathon, a half dozen mini ultras, and countless thousand of training klicks.

And I get a solid three hours out of a battery charge now, so... yeah, it was time.

Probably. I mean, I could have sent it in an got a battery replacement. Or, realistically, I'm rarely running more than a couple hours at a stretch these days. And ... no, it's not buyers remorse, but these things are expensive.

As my finger was hovering over the purchase confirmation button in one browser window a few days ago, my other browser window was desperately googling for advice on "should I upgrade my Garmin?" There was plenty of posts extolling the virtues of all the new, shiny features that would come from even a model-to-model upgrade, let alone a half-decade multi-model leap. I mean, in the end it's about pace, time and distance, right, but who doesn't want a heart-rate sensor, built in Bluetooth music and wristwatch-based turn-by-turn navigation? After all, I've got run clubs to lead and adventures to surmount, right? Right?

I run with a guy who has never used more than a forty year old digital Timex. He couldn't tell you how far or how fast he runs, but he runs farther and faster and in circles around me, and he's got nearly thirty years on me to boot.

Technology, and in particular brand new technology, in and of itself doesn't necessarily make anyone a better runner.

What are you upgrading?

Technology is a means to gather data, react to metrics, and respond to results. Technology lets us measure aspects of ourselves, and better technology lets us do that in ways that are more responsive to the moment, in the space, and in less intrusive ways than ever before. My new watch is slightly lighter, has a slightly better display (I've become a most-time bespectacled glasses wearer in the intervening years) and lets me ditch that old heart rate strap for a wrist-based pulse meter. It's better in a few ways that really matter... and better in a few ways that are fluff.

What matters and what doesn't?

I won't brag about my great deal, but needless to say I "settled" for the previous model (on super sale) over the brand spanking new version 7 (still full price) which came out a few months ago. That decision was as much about features as it was about price. Apart from a few other minor upgrades, as far as I could tell the major tweak was a touchscreen on the newer version. I leaned back in my chair and recalled my last touchscreen Garmin a few models back, one of the nicer Forerunner models, and how much I loathed that watch in the winter. I run in sub-freezing temperatures for six months of the year and in those conditions, with cozy gloves keeping your fingertips warm, a touchscreen is essentially a button you can't use without numbing your nubs.

What really motivates you?

Some people care about this stuff, too. I admit it. Fully. Unequivocally. I'm a tech nerd. I like new toys, and new toys are a motivator for me. If you told me I had to run with a forty year old digital Timex for the rest of time I may still get out there and run, but I think I'd be a little sad about it. Having some new gear for my chosen sport makes me want to use that gear and push it to its limits. I wear my old Fenix swimming, cycling, walking, kayaking, and up the sides of mountains when I hike with my family. I track my steps and my daily activity. I enjoy the breadth of features, and new features (I hope) will fit into that puzzle of enjoyment and keep me active.

I write these words as I set out in the last week with a new and renewed determination to rebuild and refresh my fitness levels. I'm a couple months after a COVID infection and a couple years into the demoralizing, crushing effects of a global pandemic. New tech, for me at least, is one of the pillars of that big plan, and I'm lucky and privileged enough to have some money set aside to upgrade my experience and crank my personal motivation through the same.

I can't tell you if you should do the same, but I can say if you learn what drives you, what's important to you, and understand that yes, there are tools that can support and enhance the time and quality of your efforts to train, run, and be active, that answer will come pretty easily.