For the past six months I’ve been training with the Garmin Forerunner 920XT and HRM-Run heart rate monitor. As someone who does most of their training alone, this watch has been an absolute game changer in how I approach my training, racing, and even recovery.
The 920XT is one of the newest multisport GPS watches from Garmin. While I use mine almost exclusively for running, the watch also allows you to track biking, swimming, and even triathlons. Major features include:
- Customizable screens with a variety of field options (pace, time, heart rate, elevation, etc.)
- VO2 Max estimate, race predictor, and recovery advisor
- Smart notifications that allow you to see incoming texts, emails and other alerts on your watch (when enabled)
- Automatic uploads to Garmin Connect
- All-day activity tracking (steps, sleep, calories burned, etc.)
- Large, bright display screen
- Long-lasting battery life
- Virtual pacer
- A wealth of other features that correlate more to biking, swimming and the technological aspects of the watch
In addition to a robust offering of features, the 920XT is aesthetically pleasing and less bulky than other watches, including its predecessor, the 910XT.
How I’ve Used the 920XT
I have used the watch for all of my training and races over the last six months, and it’s become my most loyal training partner. Here’s how I’ve set my screens:
- Pace/Distance/Elapsed Time
This is my home screen. Having this information easily accessible is most important for me during both training and race scenarios. Glancing at this screen also helps me quickly gauge if I’m on target with time/distance goals I set prior to the race.
- Heart Rate/Heart Rate Zone/Heart Rate % Max
Having a detailed breakdown of my heart rate is equally as valuable as the above. This information has saved me countless times in races when I’m pushing too hard on uphills or going out to fast. In training, it’s been equally helpful by keeping me honest in how hard I am (or am not!) pushing myself.
- Pace/Average Pace
This has been very helpful for me in longer races where I have to walk more. Keeping an eye on both pace and average pace has been crucial in meeting cutoffs … and in turn helping me finish some of my bigger races like Zion and San Diego.
- Speedometer/Cadence/Average Cadence
I utilize the cadence screens more during training (specifically speed/tempo workouts) than I do during races. Still, it’s nice to keep an eye these things during races as well.
Yes, it’s basic. Yes, it’s also essential. Whether I’m keeping an eye on the time for cutoffs, fueling … or to just make sure I’m home in time for dinner, having the time handy is always helpful!
Having all this information (and more) at my fingertips on my wrist has proved invaluable. My training has improved dramatically and I am keeping myself more honest in terms of workout intensity, elevation gain/loss, heart rate, distance and more. While a few of my weekly runs are done in the city, most are done out on the trails in and around San Diego County. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the watch’s ability to keep its signal and connectivity in these sometimes reception-challenged areas.
I also upload all of my data to Garmin Connect, where I get a quick, comprehensive, and accurate overview of my training for the day, week, or month. I now use Connect as my “training journal” which keeps track of all my running information and saves me time in logging workouts. Garmin data from Connect can easily be pushed to other journals as well (e.g. Strava). Connect will also keep track of a ton of other information, such as caloric needs, daily steps, sleep time, weight, and more.
In addition to tracking heart rate, Garmin’s HRM Run heart rate monitor measures and provides information on a lot of other valuable information, including:
- Vertical Oscillation (the bounce in your running motion)
- My feet’s Ground Contact Time
As noted above, I choose to monitor my cadence in real time (as one of my active screens), while reviewing the data on the other two at the end of the run. Finally, the heart rate strap itself is comfortable and I quickly forget I even have one on.
The 920XT has undoubtedly improved the way I both train and race. It’s made my solo runs more enjoyable by pushing me harder than I would on my own, and it’s helped me control my pace better during races. The watch offers you SO much information that it could easily overwhelm you if you let it, which is why I prefer to keep my analysis at a pretty high level.
While I’ve been incredibly happy with the watches’ features and connectivity, I do wish the battery life was a bit longer. I seem to get between 15-16 hours (GPS enabled) out of the watch during longer races (50 – 100 miles). Sometimes there is also a pretty significant lag when pushing data out to Connect or Strava, but since I’m not a data-obsessed individual the wait usually doesn’t bother me.
In the second half of 2015 I have a commitment to getting faster at ultra-distance races. By doing this, I hope to start playing around more with the Lap Pace, Virtual Partner, and Personal Records features of the 920XT.
As for the price, I believe the Garmin 920XT is worth every penny – especially when you incorporate the HRM-RUN heart rate monitor. You’d be hard pressed to find a coach, data resource, and training partner that will never stand you up for less than the sticker price of this watch. It’s money well spent.
*This post was not sponsored. G purchased the Garmin 920XT and all opinions are our own.
3 thoughts on “A Trail Runner’s Review of the Garmin Forerunner 920XT”
My Garmin Fenix stopped recording mileage at mile 36 of my ultra. It was still giving me a pace, but it was no longer logging the miles. I was 10 hours into the ultra. A Garmin rep said that the watch can only record so many points, and once the memory is full, it could do this. Have you run the 920 for that many hours and have you experienced anything like this? Thanks!
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Mark, I’ve only had one instance of that with the 920XT, and it was a pretty remote area (Monument Valley, Arizona) during a 50-miler. It dropped for about a mile then picked back up. Hasn’t happened since, though, so I’m not sure what to chalk it up to. In 4 other races (50+ miles, also in remote areas) it has stayed locked in the entire time. Hope this helps an bit!
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I can’t even get 2 hours out of my Garmin 410 in GPS Mode. Definitely need an upgrade.