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For the Serious Enthusiasts

Although I didn't attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, a product that garnered a Design and Engineering Award in the Personal Electronics category caught my eye. Admittedly, I have some familiarity with its prede- cessor, the Forerunner• 201, but the newly introduced Forerunner 301 packs a lot of functionality in an instrument that's worn on the wrist. And yes, it really can be called an instrument.

Of course, these products may not be for everyone, but for those who like to participate in outdoor activities such as running, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking, they can be useful and worthwhile companions. The Forerunners from Garmin• International are training aids that provide users with an accurate indication of speed/pace, distance, and time elapsed during exercise. Although much larger than a watch they measure about 3 • long by 1 • wide by just under  • high the 201 and the 301 weigh less than 3 oz. The display area is 100 • 64 pixels with LCD backlighting, large enough to see clearly in sunlight and darkness. Having worn one several times, I didn't find it uncomfortable or cumbersome.

Both models are equipped with a 12 parallel-channel GPS receiver that, according to the company literature, has a distance accuracy of 99%. In addition to providing distance information, the Forerunners have a navigation capability that includes functions such as add or remove the map mode, mark a location, find a location, return back to starting point, and map orientation.

The mode button on the 201 brings up the timer mode or the menu mode on the display. Three panes in the timer mode show elapsed time, speed or pace, and distance. Functions accessible by scrolling through the menu mode include history, training assistant, navigation, and settings. Making a selection is quite easy using the enter and up and down buttons.

For goal-oriented individuals, the Virtual Partner, which is a feature of the training assistant, is a unique and helpful tool. Once goals for a particular workout such as distance and time or time and speed have been entered into the Forerunner, the Virtual Partner icons appear on the display. The top icon is a silhouette of a runner your Virtual Partner and the bottom silhouette represents you. The relationship of the icons will show if you re exercising at your target goal. If your Virtual Partner is ahead, then you need to speed up.

The new Forerunner 301 incorporates some advanced features including a digitally coded heart-rate monitor to enable the more serious athletes to create an integrated personal-training program. For example, the AutoLearn•  feature of the 301 calculates the anaerobic threshold and adjusts heart-rate zones so users can exercise at optimal performance levels. With the Training Center• software, users can plan and analyze workouts to achieve desired fitness goals.

This is certainly not an endorsement, but for those wishing to systematically improve their fitness levels, the Forerunner 301 may well be worth the investment. At least, when running in an unfamiliar place, it can minimize the chance of getting lost'something that has happened to me on occasion.

Paul Milo
[email protected]

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