Garmin Starts Roll-out of PacePro to FR945 and FR245, Also Adds More Data Fields Per Page

Here’s a Thursday quick heads up for ya – Garmin has begun the roll-out of PacePro to the Forerunner 945 and FR245/FR245M series watches. You might remember PacePro was introduced on the Fenix 6 about two months ago, and essentially gives mile by mile (or kilometer by kilometer, or even random chunk by random chunk) pacing guidance for races by looking at the terrain and your pacing goals (including time and distance, but also details such as negative split or positive split). It’s like the old-school pace bands that you see at marathons with your splits for it but with way more smarts in it.

It’s super cool tech, but is also something that’s actually more than meets the eye under the covers. Specifically – Garmin designed it to be extensible. Meaning that as they get past this particular firmware update to these devices, they’ll be looking at how to make tweaks to it. Be it covering more use cases, or bringing in partners to leverage it. For example, the way Garmin Connect plops files on the watches was designed to be open to allow 3rd parties to create files as well.

Right now for example it’s specifically for running, but it’d be easy to see how this could be extended to cycling (primarily time trials/triathlons). That would make it super appealing for companies like Best Bike Split to leverage it for better guidance than the somewhat cumbersome methods that have to put up with today for real-time pacing guidance.

Finally, for the FR945 (but not FR245), you’ll now be able to add either 5 or 6 data metrics/fields per page instead of the previous 4. Again, another change that was previously introduced on the Fenix 6.

How PacePro Works:

Now if you’re unfamiliar with PacePro, I’m going to copy/paste my section from the Fenix 6 Review on it here below (with some minor tweaks). I’d happily go out and re-shoot this entire thing on the FR945, but I live in a place whereby an errant bread crumb on the top of a desk has more altitude than my surrounding terrain. Certainly you can still use PacePro in flat-terrain situations to do negative/positive splits. But the real magic is the ability to handle more volatile terrain such as climbs or descents and pacing those. The next time I travel somewhere I’ll get some more pics.

Now starting with the basics of PacePro– think of it first like one of those pace bands that any marathoner is undoubtedly familiar with, this makes it all electronic. But even more than that, it automatically calculates each split (miles or kilometers) based on the elevation profile of the course you’re doing. In turn, you then get individual split targets for each mile raced.

But wait, we’re not done yet. Atop all that, you’ve got two specific levers to tweak: Intensity of hills (how hard you run them), and then whether you positive or negative split the race/course – and to what extent. Don’t worry, I’ll demo all this.

So to start, this feature is available on both the Pro and non-Pro Fenix 6 models, MARQ, as well as the Garmin FR945 and FR245/245 Music. However, if using it on the non-Pro Fenix 6 & FR245 models, you’ll need to have the course already created (so it has access to the elevation data). Whereas on the Fenix 6 Pro/MARQ/FRR945 models you can actually create a course on the fly on a watch (since it has the elevation data from the maps on those watches), and then execute a PacePro strategy upon it from the watch. I suspect though that 99.99% of you, no matter which version you have, will be creating courses online and sending them to your device. Note that when doing it from the watch (versus Garmin Connect Mobile), you can’t adjust the various sliders that you see down below. As such, I’d really just recommend doing it from the app and sending it to your watch to execute.

First, you start off in the area to choose/create a course, and you’ll see the ability to choose PacePro. From there you’re given the option to load a course or not:

Technically speaking you don’t even need to load a course. You can simply use an assumed flat course profile and then do positive/negative splits based on a given time goal or pace goal. Which gets us to the next bit – choosing that goal. You can tweak this later easily if you want, but you need to choose either a time or pace goal. In my case I set up a loop around NYC’s Central Park and went with a sub-7/mile pace goal. Knowing I’d be coming off a transatlantic flight and running this 90 minutes later, I kept things civilized:

Next, you’ll be brought to this screen that shows the course profile with color-coding on it. You can expand this and zoom in however you’d like:

But the real magic happens down below. That’s where you can dork with two levers. The first one adjusts whether you want to positive or negative split the course (meaning, get faster over the course, or fade over the course). And the second one adjusts how hard you run the hills.  As you adjust those sliders, you’ll see that both the split targets down below change, as well as the split targets over the elevation up above:

It’s frankly kinda fun to play with this. You can do it all day long. Once you’re done, you’ll send this to your watch and it’ll sync via Bluetooth Smart.

Also of note – is that you can create the ‘splits’ based not just on per-mile or per-kilometer, but per elevation changes. So you can divide them up between downhill sections vs uphill sections vs flats, etc… Which frankly, makes a lot of sense.

Next, back on your watch you’ll go to the running activity and load the PacePro strategy up. These actually are files similar to course/workout files that you’ll find on your watch (for those geeks in the house). On the watch it’ll show you some of the stats for that PacePro session:

And then, off you go (once you press start). The watch will then show your target pace (7:00) on the top line, followed by your current pace for that split on the second line (6:35). You can see here I’m overachieving (hey, I’m still getting used to trusting a watch on pacing like this):

Then down below you’ve got distance remaining (0.75) in that lap (either 1 kilometer or 1 mile depending on how you’ve set it up), and then below that you’ve got whether or not you’re ahead or behind for the entire race, and by how much (-0:07).

What’s notable here is is that it locks to your GPS location on the predefined course (think of it like a train track, or roller coaster ride), rather than your watch distance the GPS has measured. This has its pros and cons.

On the plus side, this means that if your GPS accuracy goes to crap (such as with a tunnel, or just life in general), then it doesn’t impact PacePro. That’s really really cool, and is considerably different than something like Virtual Partner or any other pacing functionality. On the downside though, if there’s a difference between the route/course you created in Garmin Connect (or wherever) and the course that you’re running – then you’re up crap-creek. That could happen if either there’s a change on race day due to some road scenario, or if the route you created on GC has unnoticed anomalies in it.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened to me with my NYC Central Park course. I thought I had created a loop around the main road, but upon closer inspection at numerous points along the route the Garmin Connect course creator took short detours. Often only 50-150 meters each, but there was a pile of them, usually just briefly to nearby sidewalks and back. But they added up – and they’re virtually impossible to see unless you zoom way in.

Now back in August when I did this test in NYC, I ran into issues with the underlying map. Garmin did some digging into it (ok, a lot of digging) and it was mostly as I suspected: My initial route had errors in it. Though, I argued that if I quickly create a loop around Central Park (likely one of the most popular running loops in the world), it should be able to do that without screwing it up. And they agreed. After which, they did some stuff.

Unfortunately, it still seems to struggle in the route creation department in NYC Central Park (specifically, it often jumps back and forth between the different running/walking paths – causing weird hops). I get it, the heatmap data for Central Park has to be bonkers to contend with. And indeed, if I try less crazy places like here in Amsterdam (which actually has more ancillary bike/ped paths alongside every road) it handles it better, likely because the underlying popularity data is a bit cleaner. Simple lesson though: Just double (or triple) check your exact route in Garmin Connect Mobile before you move onto the PacePro bits.

In any event, that issue aside, the entire functionality of it worked awesomely on the watch itself. It was surprisingly motivating to just focus on a single lap, but more importantly – getting different splits each time. It took my mind off of the larger prize, and had my brain focus on one thing at a time. Well done.

Getting your device updated:

Now, the roll-out is being done in phased fashion (like most of Garmin’s recent firmware rollouts), which is mostly done to lessen the impact of an issue in the event something is found that wasn’t caught in testing. These firmware updates contain more than just the PacePro features, it actually has other new features and a slate of bug fixes as well as sensor changes. As we’ve seen recently with iOS13 (for both Apple & Garmin), Bluetooth changes, in particular, can be incredibly tough to predict with large scale audiences. Here’s the list for the FR945:

And the list for the FR245:

Roughly 20% of users would have received the update (or the ability to get the update) last night, and then Garmin says if everything checks out over the course of the day, they’ll continue with the phased roll-out over the next 4-5 days, so that all users will have the update by early next week.

There’s a pile of ways you can get the update:

A) Automagically it’ll just happen behind the scenes whereby the device will receive it and install it around 1-2AM quietly
B) You can go into the watch if nearby WiFi and go to Settings > WiFi > WiFi Sync and force an update check
C) You can connect your watch via USB to PC or Mac and use the Garmin Express app
D) You can connect your watch via USB to PC or Mac and use the older Garmin WebUpdater

Of course, all of these will still be dependent on you winning the firmware update lottery. I’d love to see Garmin offer the ability to simply manually download the firmware update file (like they do for public beta users) in the event you’re eager to get started. Perhaps simply providing a link from the Garmin Forums post that a Garmin employee publishes for each new firmware update (it’s also where they list the phased status). To me that strikes a nice balance, and probably gets critical feedback back to Garmin faster than waiting for the average user to run into unexpected issues.

In any case – go forth and update…and then race. Though, I think we’ve passed many of the major US/European fall marathons at this point. Actually, there’s still my personal favorite (and marathon PR, throw-back post here) – the Philly Marathon. And Seattle too! Both are coming up in a couple of weeks. Good luck!

With that – thanks for reading!

DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (100)

    • Not a chance, Time to throw some hard earned money at Garmin. I'm in the same boat with my 645, if history repeats I've only got till March to wait for a replacement. For me it'll be interesting what they bring to the table regarding the "655" seeing as the 245 now eclipses my current watch. All the new watches have the Sony chipset for a start, which will no doubt impact software or hardware dependencies. So yeah nothing coming out way

    • I haven't heard any plans to bring anything new to the Fenix 5 series (plus or otherwise).

      I've gotta ask when they wake up on the FR645. Imho, given it shares the same x45 designator - I feel like it should get this. Even more so given the FR245 has it. I know it came out almost two years ago, but there is no replacement for that particular device at this point and I think it's a great example of why people get frustrated with Garmin over updates being inconsistent.

      Again - I haven't asked about the FR645, so it's plausible there's some update tomorrow in which case you can just 'nevermind' my comment above. ;)

    • The problem is that the release date of the device is irrelevant. The hardware series is more important. For instance the Fenix 5 and 935 are the same underlying hardware, as are the Fenix 6 and 945. The 645 is, I think, an older generation of hardware so may be less capable than the 245.
      From my perspective, Garmin need to move to a model where they just sell hardware models with various features, and then everything gets all the features it can support. They seem to be waking up to this, but not there yet. In spite of all the mean things I say about Suunto, they really have nailed this with Spartan and later stuff. If there's a baro, you get baro and if not you don't, but you get essentially the same software (third party licensing aside!).
      It absolutely doesn't bother me that I'm lacking Fenix 6 features on my 5+. Map colouring is an example - I can believe better hardware is needed to render maps in real time without killing the battery. It really does bother me when they are really simple software tweaks that the watch would support, such as the new widgets. The code is written and compatible so where's the harm? It would actually reduce support costs to consolidate the code as much as possible too.

    • That was the frustration that made me change to another watch. There were other issues that I could live with, but this inconsistency is just too much.

    • Any word from Garmin in the FR645 yet? I own one myself, and would love to use the feature on it if/when it becomes available

    • My suspicion is the 645 predated the CPU upgrades the rest of the x45 line and that's the limiting factor. It lacks the Body Battery FirstBeat metric too - shares more in common with a 935 than a 945.

    • The 245 is $299, for $100 more you can get the 935 with baro+gyro+temp sensors, maps, multisport, golf and more firstbeat metrics. The only sticking point is the lack of PacePro for runners.

    • Exactly! Garmin should save a lot of production cost and make money at the same time, by selling different applications to relevant models that could run them.

    • 2 months later and no PacePro for the 645. Looks like the hardware must have prevented it.

      Garmin didn't really think too far ahead when releasing 245 and 945. Maybe they should have just gone with 246 and 946.

      I also noticed today that 645 has been removed from Garmin website, well the Garmin AU website anyway.

    • Hi there,
      as far as I see it there is no pacepro for FR645m up till now.
      Is there any hope left?
      thx and best regards,

  • I love Pacepro, though wish the degree of +/- toggles for hills and beginning versus ending miles were a little more substantial.

    Or maybe it's me that should stop going out so fast and burning out - - either way.

    • You would think based on it being more expensive than the FR245 it would be...but I haven't heard anything there (or for Venu). It's a good example of why Garmin needs to figure out a way to via some mechanism (paid or otherwise) allow people to add features to watches between those lines.

    • Yeah, that’s exactly what I was telling to a friend of mine a couple of days ago. I have a fr245, I’m super happy with it, and I’ll have no problem paying some extra $ to Garmin via ConnectIQ Store to add for example the native open water swimming activity profile to my watch. It’s something I’m pretty sure the device is capable of but of course Garmin have no interest including it on a watch at that price point.

  • Any more specifics on the further treadmill calibration fix or just "we're working on it" like the release says?

    • Only thing I've heard is the 'we're working on it' bit. I did note yesterday to them that as some people start to transition indoors, it becomes more and more of an issue.

    • David: It doesn't save the calibration (Im one of the 80% standing in the rain, so can't say how the fix is working). The watches are far of by easy 20% and don't apply calibration. If you choose calibrate and safe, only the total distance of the activity was changed.

  • hey Ray - among those tweaks - any ideea if they'll let you edit individual splits and update the grand total time accordingly? for example i know that at km5 there's an aid station and i might go 24sec slower - those 24sec should be distributed evenly among the next kilometers...

    also - any news about glances & co? ;)

    keep up the good work ;-),

    • As it stands no but Ray's comment "For example, the way Garmin Connect plops files on the watches was designed to be open to allow 3rd parties to create files as well" got me thinking that your use case could well be what "3rd parties" could help with.

  • Note that you can play around with the feature in Garmin Connect even if you don't have a compatible device.

    I did and a few things struck me:
    - it is quite hard to figure out how to properly set the two sliders for one's style. It'd be great if GC gave the opportunity to analyse past race records and determine corresponding metrics. It would probably also help if the scales were marked with values.
    - the system seems to assume that you will always speed up when going downhill - that's not always true, especially with steep descends.
    - the most conservative setting for "uphill effort" may not be enough if you're up for a trail-like race, but in all fairness, a simple model just based on incline probably won't do for such races where trail conditions (mud, stones, tree roots) are just as important.

    Still, quite an interesting development, even if mostly restricted to not-quite-flat road running races/trainings.

    • I think it is largely designed for road courses or at least ones when the main limiting factor for speed is gradient. "Style" is an interesting point as I kind of figured the "point" of this is to guide you to an optimum strategy which may not be what you have done before. If that is already optimum then this isn't going to help.

    • I think Tim has it right. I did a trail run yesterday with 800' descent in 0.6 miles. I averaged 11:00 min/mi. I was doing 12:30's on the slightly longer climb route. No way it's going to be able to adjust for situations like that. It would be futile for them to try.

  • It seems that it is a giant omission (by design) that this feature is not on the current running flagship watch of the Garmin 645/645M. I understand that companies have to innovate to survive, to provide features and platforms to want to upgrade to. Also that when you buy a product that there is no guarantee of support, in this case for a new feature. But this feature in particular seems like it would benefit competitive and non-competitive runners and so it does sting when it's not implemented for the running flagship but is for the mid range device (245).

    I guess the alternative is as Ray has talked about before: using a connectIQ app to fill the gap that garmin won't. Food for thought.

    • I know that I may be in a minority but it would be interesting to see Ray compare PacePro to RaceScreen or any other app/watch that has this kind of pacing feature. After all, part of the reason people have these watches are to become better athletes and/or get better results.

    • Ray did cover his favorite Connect IQ apps which includes RaceScreen in the past.

      I use this app (a data field in fact) on every marathon and semi I raced since I installed it. The unique feature is the ability to reset the km/mile counter each time you pass the corresponding marks on the race, to limit as much as possible the effect of GPS inaccuracies. But it only allows you to set a target time for the overall race, it does not try to take into account elevation changes.

      Two very different feature sets, although it could be nice if the distance adjustment feature could be combined with PacePro's.

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