About a week after I submitted my request, I received a personal email from the director of Catalyst—a public relations firm that works with Timex. He told me that Timex would be happy to supply the watch to review—per FTC regulations. Ah, building brand loyalty starts with great customer relations. Even if they had responded with "Hi Mark, thanks for your interest, but due to the enormous amounts of requests we get similar to this, we are unable to provide you with our product," I would have been disappointed but impressed that a human being actually took the time to respond. Here is what was in the box:
Okay, let's get down to it, shall we. Here are the pros and cons of the Ironman Race Trainer Kit:
Cost: At $220 USD, the Ironman Race Trainer Kit it competitive with all the other leading heart rate monitor watches.
Ease of Use: For me, I could end the review right here. I like things simple. No one with a busy life—i.e. everyone—has the time or energy to sit with an instruction manual for an afternoon figuring out how to operate a television, computer, or watch—let alone someone with five children. The watch came with a pretty beefy instruction manual. If you are like me, and like to read instruction manuals as much as dinner-time calls from telemarketers, you're in luck. With as little as a second grade education, you can operate this watch with ease. How do I know? I asked my second grader, Luca, if he could figure out how the heart rate monitor system worked without the instructions. I then asked him to repeat it twice more. I am embarrassed to admit that he figured it out quicker than I did. The steps getting the actual heart rate monitor to sync to my watch was simple. That took about five minutes, but I actually had to read the instruction manual for that one. You can upload all your information to your computer wirelessly via the usb antennae , or what Timex fancifully dubs the "Timex Data Xchanger," pictured in the foreground. The process took seconds, not minutes, to upload my workout details. You can then store all of your data, say for an entire Ironman training season, to document your progress. Your information is stored on the Timex Training Peaks sight. Not only will it document all of your data (i.e. heart rate, calorie expenditure, favorite color,) but it allows you to see elevation profiles of routes that you've created. I imagine that you can sync miles and eleveation changes with their GPS watches. Hmmm, might have to check that out.
Reliability: The watch seems durable enough. You know, the usual water resistant up to 100 M, and according to the company slogan, it can "take a licking." I personally do not feel that you can call it a race watch until you get a couple of battle scars in it. Judging by my previous two Timex watches, I can vouch that the battery life is pretty good. I've only changed the battery on my first watch once in the ten years that I've owned it. The heart rate monitor was very accurate, supplying new data to the watch every two seconds.
Comfort: Honestly, I do not know the exact weight of this watch, but I can tell you that you will forget you are wearing it. One very simple feature that the watch employs is a breathable rubber strap. It seems like a little thing, but the last thing you want is your wrist to start itching midway through a race because the sweat is causing an reaction with your strap. I've been there, not fun. The heart rate monitor is comfortable to me. I am very particular—some might say 'compulsive'—when it comes to comfort. I am the kind of person that will adjust his shorts to the left or right, or pull his shirt back an inch from where it is sitting on his shoulder in order to be completely comfortable running or biking. The heart rate monitor is comfortable and lightweight. The sensors are curved to match the physiognomy of the body and it sit just below your sternum. You know you are wearing it because it needs to be snug against your body, but the strap did not chafe at all, although I did not run more than 7 miles with it on.
Features: The watch does everything you might suspect: chronometer to track splits, three alarms, timer, interval and recovery functions, and review your HR workouts. One pleasantly convenient feature of the Timex Ironman Training watch, is that, well... it's a watch! Believe it or not, there are companies that make heart rate monitor and GPS "watches" that do not actually tell time. Anyone who has run a half or full iron distance event knows that it is nearly impossible to figure math in your head when you have been racing an entire morning and well into an afternoon. Unless they start building sun dials through my town, I am happy with the clock feature on my watch.
Style: Here is a picture of my previous watch on the left and my new Timex on the right. The bigger face makes it easier to read while racing. It will display the time, date and HR simultaneously as well. It is a pretty sleek design. I tell all my friends that I will be much more 'aero' this season because of the lower profile on my watch.
Cons: Presently, this watch can not do my taxes or operate as an ice cream maker, and as such, I am not sure should cost $220. I think if you take full advantage of the Training Peaks software, it might be worth it. The problem is that most serious, dedicated athletes are already tracking their miles, routes, and HR data somewhere else already, and unless they can easily export all of their data, it might not be worth it to start tracking that data elsewhere.
Overall, I like the watch and the HR system a lot. Adam and I were keenly aware of our running and biking tempos this week because of the HR monitoring. It allowed us to push it, but still feel like we could have gone a little extra if we needed to at the end of our runs. Last season, we pushed every single run and had no idea, nor did we care if our HR was near or above threshold.