Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Christmas gift of a new watch - The Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Basically the need for a new swimming watch, in brief, goes like this; my old, and trustworthy Garmin broke. It was a swift death, brought about by someone (me) being a bit careless and dropping it on a concrete floor. I cried real tears and held a minute’s silence after which I spent the remainder of the day wearing a black armband mourning my loss. Not really, what actually happened was; I said lots of sweary words and felt miserable for the rest of the day, and at every watchless training session after that.

I’ve been lost without one, and had resorted to using my open water watch in the pool, which unfortunately doesn’t have the functions that I like, and so has been neither use nor ornament really, so it’s time for a new watch that is suitable for both the pool and the open water and has on it the functions that I like, and use, and how fortuitous, the timing couldn’t be better really, what with Christmas coming and all…

So, after tons of extensive research, well basically going on the website of various watches having sent a plea out on social media for advice on the best watches, followed by watching various YouTube clips (a couple were great, others less great) and reading some reviews, I decided that the best one for me would be the Garmin Forerunner 735XT.

In order that ‘Santa’ would get the correct present, subliminal messages were strategically placed around the house. And for these of you who didn’t get what you wished for, read and learn. The tried and well-tested strategy goes like this:

1.     Hint – relentless hinting works. These include: Leave magazines open on relevant pages in obvious places. Here are a few examples: the coffee table, kitchen counter, sock drawer, garage, anywhere really. Several relevant tabs left open on the computer (showing you’ve done your research always looks good). Change the screen saver on the computer to that of your gift choices (don’t do a montage – that’s too obvious). Leave barcodes and pictures of your gift of choice here, there and everywhere (saves time for them and ensures they get the right gift. Tell anyone that’ll listen that you are in dire need of said item and how your life would be enriched with it in it. I speak from bitter experience here - Please, please also include the colour you would like (if you happened to be that lucky)… And in my case, as it is well known universally that black is a slimming colour – black it is!
2.     There is no number 2.

Fast forward to Christmas day, and my winning strategy has paid off. I opened the gift, digging deep into my pretty limited, but impressive acting repertoire (I secured the leading role of Mary in the school nativity aged five, and sang Wiggly Woo on stage at the Pantomime with Charlie Williams aged eight) with what I felt was the right level of acting surprised. I rounded this off by doing some kind of jig around the room (If I said one word – Carlton- that’s the level). I wanted my kids to be satisfied that they had pulled the surprise of surprises out of the bag, and I think they were. I am aware that there’s a fine line between pulling something off and over acting, and I’m not entirely sure after that dance whether I crossed it! 

I unpacked the watch with great care (couldn’t bear another loss), and thank my lucky stars that Garmin had provided an idiots guide to using it. As a child of thne 70’s I am completely useless when it comes to technology, and without basic guidance the watch would have an unfulfilled  life living in the kitchen drawer – unused and unloved. 

So with beginners guide in hand, watch plugged in, I sat in front of the computer for the best part of 3 hours registering/looking/learning/playing around with it, which resulted in Christmas lunch being a little later than originally planned (3 hours later)! No one cared, they were far too busy eating selection boxes and counting their cash. No one ate any of the satsumas I had bought though. 

Once I was up and running, the first hour was spent looking through the downloadable watch faces (prioritizing), and after several changed minds later opted for the biggest clock I could find. I blame the winter darker days for this, but the bitter truth is actually that my middle-aged eyes struggle with anything less than huge close up.

As part of setting the watch up, it asks me all sorts of personal questions, including how much I weighed!?!?  And as I’m not entirely comfortable with this ask after eating my body weight in chocolate even before Christmas had arrived, I wonder whether I risk the watch being slightly less than accurate and consider inputting the weight I’d like to be, rather than the weight I actually am. I opted to compromise and decide on my pre-Christmas weight, and hope that it’s only a matter of a couple of weeks till I can be there again (fingers crossed, and probably will need my jaws wiring too).

The watch has several features, one is them is a wrist based heart monitor, and so on Christmas day afternoon ‘researching’ this feature was conducted doing some horizontal resting on the sofa, after all cooking Christmas lunch is exhausting, and I felt that a short Nanna Nap was a great way of checking the watches accuracy. It was working a treat for twenty minutes, before unexpectedly I was awoken from my research by the watch. It beeped (and vibrated on my wrist) at me, and when I looked at the display it just said ‘move.’ I think if it had a larger watch face it would have probably added ‘your lazy arse!’ or something similar! And so, even though it’s Christmas day, and I don’t have the luxury of my own pool to swim in as I see fit, I took my poor dog, who does not like being walked one bit (I do question the legitimacy or her Kennel Club certificate, who ever heard of a spaniel that doesn’t like a walk?) for a walk. It was the first of three we did that day (all prompted by the watch). The forth I did alone, as the dog went ‘missing’ and was found later fast asleep in her hiding spot behind the tree (she is still sulking, and avoiding me several days later).

By the end of the day I think I was familiar enough to risk a swim in it. I was all good to go, I’d even downloaded a pool workout (if this works it’ll save me remembering to take my laminated training sheets to the pool). I would have also liked to have used one of their training plans. I have a 10km swim at the end of the summer season, and although I’ve done a few now and have always followed my own plan, it would be nice to try something different. You never know, it may improve my time…but unfortunately it doesn’t have a scheduled training plan just for swimming (it does running, cycling and triathlon), which is a great shame, however not the end of the world… I’ll just have to carry on with my own! 

The watch also has a sleep rate monitor, and I was intrigued to see how well I was sleeping, and what my resting heart rate was, so went to bed wearing it. I woke earlier than normal the next day (before the dawn chorus in fact) that’s how keen I was to see what it said. Turns out I’d slept very well, which could have been helped by the enormous glass of Bailey’s that I had just before I went to bed, or could also have been the excessive walking I did in a bid to please my watch. And when I look at the data it told me that I’d pretty much not moved all night and that my resting heart rate was (I thought) very low indeed, and far too near the flat line for my liking. I spent the first fifteen minutes of my waking day on the Internet checking resting heart rate ranges to find that it is lower that average. I wasn’t sure whether to be delighted with this, so called Shark for some free medical advice, she was a little short with me on the phone, told me that I wasn’t going to die from it, and then put the phone down. It was at this point that I realized how very early it actually was, and sent her a ‘sorry, I’m an utterly shit and inconsiderate friend” text; probably waking her again!

With Christmas over with and training back on, when it came to my first pool swim, thankfully there were several other swimmers with the same watch. This was good news for me, I knew if I was unsure of which button to press I could ask one of them, but as it happens several of those swimmers watches were also on their maiden voyage, and they too were cautiously pressing buttons and asking for help too… from me! I informed them of my lack of technological ability, added to shoddy eye sight, I was by far the worst possible choice when it came to advice/guidance…a bit like the blind leading the blind frankly!

As far as the watch goes, it’s so far so good, I have done several swims in the pool, all of which have been accurate… well to be fair, we all know that I can lose count of how many lengths I’ve done in the early teens when doing a longer swim, so I only think that it’s accurate, but then that is one of the reasons I got it! The screen is great, I’ve set it up on the ‘huge’ typeface setting so I can read it (don’t want to do more lengths than is actually required because I saw the wrong number), which means that I no longer have to consider Shark’s impractical suggestion of taking a magnifying glass poolside to help!

Finally, it's a year since I first began writing my little blog, which stared as a way of writing about my recovery, the training and the swim I did last year (Windermere one way). I have been amazed and overwhelmed at the amazing response, and lovely messages of support I have had. After I had completed the swim I was asked if I would consider putting last year’s journey into a book. Going from a blog to an e-book is something quite different, and a lot scarier, however I decided after a lot of consideration to take the plunge (no pun intended) and do it, and finally has now been published this week on Amazon. How amazing (but mostly scary) is that? I hope that for those of you that read it feel inspired to not only take on difficult challenges, but also to never underestimate how far you can push yourself to achieve what you set out to do.

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere is available on Amazon

I also have a 'group' page on Facebook and am on Twitter and Instagram, where I post daily shenanigans and such like. If you'd like to join/follow you'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊

Open Water Woman

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