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Garmin Adds New ‘Adventure Race’ Activity Profile: An Explainer

While scanning through the list of beta firmware updates that posted this week, I noticed a curious addition – a new ‘Adventure Race’ activity profile designed for races that prohibit GPS navigation during the race. Meaning that some races require competitors to do their own orienteering, old-school style with maps and compass, rather than depend on GPS devices.

But of course these athletes still want to record their race for posterity sake (because…Strava), but don’t want to run afoul of rules that limit navigational assistance. Many of these races/rules do allow GPS devices that can record only, but not do any navigation or even distance tracking. Thus up till now, people have largely had to use less capable and more basic GPS watches that often don’t have the battery life capabilities of Garmin’s higher-end models (if at all).

For example, an older Forerunner 35 series device that can’t navigate (nor has Connect IQ) would fit the bill for some races, but has a very limited battery life for adventure racing – especially compared to something like the Garmin Enduro which can reach into the hundreds of hours of GPS-on time, depending on how it’s configured.

In any event, as I said, I was browsing through the mostly boring list of bug fixes when I noticed this one. And figured it was curiosity-inducing enough to mention, even if some portion of the population will think it’s silly (just like some portion of the population thinks Wahoo’s watch singing happy birthday to you is silly).

P1022773

So, the feature is currently posted in public beta for the Garmin Fenix 6 Series (all editions), MARQ Series, and Enduro. That’s part of the larger beta firmware update set, so you’re actually getting a pile of other new features that Garmin has been adding to those watches in beta the last few months, but hasn’t yet toggled over to production for these watches (but have on other watches), including:

  • Added Adventure Race activity
  • Added the ability to rate the perceived effort and feel of a Run, Bike, or Swim activity.
  • Added sleep tracking widget with sleep score and insights by Firstbeat Analytics.
  • Added metabolic calories into the total calories reported in the calories data field and recorded in the activity file.
  • Added setting to enable/disable workout audio prompts
  • Updated workout audio prompts for hundredths distance precision.
  • Updated Intensity Minutes determinations to align with guidance from CDC.
  • Plus a crap load of other things under the ‘improved’ banner that could agreeably be called ‘new’

Here’s the links to the beta updates, and the full list of all those changes from basically 16.70 (most recent production build) till now:

Garmin Fenix 6 Series
Garmin MARQ Series
Garmin Enduro

So I charged up a Fenix 6 unit to throw the firmware on and see how it works, and threw on the beta firmware:

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First up you’ll add the ‘Adventure Race’ activity profile, like you would any other random profile you’ve never used before, by scrolling down forever through the massive list of profiles and selecting it.

P1022756

Once that’s done, you can crack it open. As with other GPS-based profiles, it’s still going to acquire satellites like normal, and show the coloring at the top that GPS signal has been acquired. Same goes with optical HR. And like other profiles it has a few default data pages. In this case it’s one data page showing altitude, time, heart rate, and duration. Then one showing the compass, and finally one showing your start time on a new ‘verification’ page.

P1022757 P1022758 P1022764

And while you can still customize data pages/fields, it’s not quite like normal. You won’t be able to add any distance fields, navigational fields, map fields, or location/GPS coordinate fields. None of those are allowed. Nor are you allowed any mapping data pages, or any navigational-related features/tools (such as course selection or routing options). Even auto-lap is disabled, so you can’t figure out distance based on that.

P1022760 P1022761

In fact, beyond those data field tweaks/disablements, there’s a slew of tiny ones (of which I probably haven’t found all of). For example, if you access the ‘Quick Access’ menu (long hold upper left button), it’ll disable the ability to quickly show/save Lat/Long, as well as disables music, and phone connectivity. As you hover over each of those options, they’re now greyed out with a line through them, and instead display ‘Adventure Race Active’. Further, all Hot Keys are disabled too (and will say “Hot keys are disabled in this activity”).

However, the singular (arguably massive) gap is Connect IQ fields are permitted. Given countless CIQ fields show distance data, or even straight-up map/route data (like DWMap), that’s sorta leaving open a huge hole in the entire theory.

(Update: As of August 12th, 2021 – Garmin has removed the Connect IQ field allowance. Thus, that gap is now closed. I’ve left the rest of the post-as-is, so ignore as necessary. Good to see!)

P1022762

Then again, I suppose if someone is going to cheat that way, they’re probably just as easily going to cheat any other way. Cheaters gonna cheat, and that’s unfortunately probably just a fact of life. Still, I’m struggling to see why CIQ needs to be enabled in this scenario, given the severity of the gap it opens, relative to the benefits. Certainly there are some benefits – but this entire profile was designed to allow people to just capture their run GPS track after the fact, not to boil the ocean.

Beyond that, from a workout standpoint, you’ll start/stop like any other activity and it *records* every bit of data just like any normal run (it simply doesn’t display it to you mid-run).

Nonetheless, the one last interesting tidbit is that once you end the activity, there’s a new ‘Verification’ tab of sorts in the list of post-workout data metrics:

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When you crack that open, it shows you this:

P1022769

I presume the idea being to show race officials that data or such. Though, I could see how having some sort of explainer text to show to race officials would also be useful, such as “This event was recorded in Adventure Racing mode, which disallows access to navigational, distance, and mapping related data during the activity”.

Still, I’m sure someone will find this useful – and in many ways, that’s been Garmin’s strategy for a while – keeping adding features that a small portion of the population finds useful. Ultimately covering virtually every use case and edge case out there.

Oh, and finally, to preempt what will invariably be the first comment below: When will Garmin announce a Fenix 7? Most definitely 7AM US Eastern time on Tuesday. Sometimes Wednesday or Thursday, but certainly still 7AM US Eastern Time. Never a Monday or Friday though, even at 7AM. Also, probably not this Tuesday. Possibly linked to a trade show (those exist still?) or race, but possibly not. Definitely before they announce a Fenix 8 though – and certainly before a Fenix 10 or Fenix 11.

With that, thanks for reading!

Update: About 12 hours after publishing this post, the Adventure Racing World Series announced that they’ll be allowing “securely locked” GPS watches during their races, notably mentioning the Garmin Enduro. The first such race allowing it is Oct 1-10th in Spain. Also of note, Garmin is a sponsor there. (Thanks to commenter Margusl below for catching this!)

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60 Comments

  1. Jimmy

    Thanks for preempting the Fenix 7 question. 🤣🤣🤣

  2. ekutter

    Good catch on the CIQ gaping hole. Just tried it and sure enough, distance and location work just fine. Got to imagine they’ll have this fixed before being released as a non beta. Otherwise kind of defeats the whole purpose.

  3. Nemo

    I was super excited to read this post, and then I realized that essentially this function does what I’m already doing for Adventure Races. I set up my own Adventure Race activity that limits my screens to show only Time of Day, Heart Rate, Elevation, and Lap Time on one page with the Compass on another. That said- at least now I can somewhat prove to an RD that I’m not using the watch for anything else- so I suppose that’s useful. Thankfully I have a Fenix 6 too 🙂

  4. GLT

    If they really want to stir up the techies they could add the checksum of the Activity FIT file on the verification screen.

    There must be a reason they left GCIQ enabled. Perhaps some of the individual interfaces within are rendered useless for the activity.

  5. John

    First will garmin announce the Marq 2 before they Release fenix 7.

  6. Martin

    I really see the potential of this profile, not just for adventure races but also for regular orienteering races.
    Hopefully the profile will make its way to the forerunner watches as well (at least the x45 ones)

  7. margusl

    This is getting bit more interesting as Adventure Racing World Series seems to be involved, they just made a FB post about allowing pre-approved and “securely locked” GPS-watches during ARWS races. First approved device is Garmin Enduro, competitors are allowed to wear it during AWRC in Spain (1st – 10th October 2021). Garmin is also listed as one of the sponsors.
    link to facebook.com

  8. Dave Lusty

    It’s getting a little frustrating with these feature additions! I’m so tempted to get the 6 Pro as there are now enough features to make it quite a bit better than the 5 plus that I have. I just need to keep reminding myself that we’re half way through summer and they must be prepping a launch before next summer. I know I shouldn’t even consider the 6 pro at this point but they genuinely have added a lot of incremental value through updates like indoor climbing.
    I can’t tell whether you just confirmed a Fenix 7 or a jump to Fenix 9, or that they’re dropping the Fenix name 😉

    • Luke

      I’m in the same boat. I’ve been hanging around for the Fenix 7, but now that he’s dropping the first hints on a Fenix 8 I’m not sure what I should do…

      Flirted with the Descent MK2 for a while, but I don’t dive enough to have it be useful and I’m really worried about the infrequency of updates that it’ll get in it lifespan.

    • jww

      While we’re 2 years from F6 and also approaching that traditional European wearables show timing, I’m actually wondering if they do ***MARQ*** first before F7 to try and move high end consumers even higher. The MARQ’s still have the small screens and huge bezels of the F5 era.

    • Dave

      Also considering the Descent 2S; do you know if the original Descent got / is getting all of the updates that the equivalent level Fenix got?

  9. runner-33

    Nice addition! I guess CIQ is enabled to keep Stryd folks happy since these could be a quite large subset of the target group for that app. No Stryd data field means no Stryd metrics. Garmin could however have disabled any distance/pace/GPS related metrics for the Adventure Run app, I didn’t test that.

    • ChrisTexan

      Exactly what I was thinking (Stryd metrics)… a better final solution (allowing disablement of CIQ for this groiup) of course would be to integrate power and Stryd metrics directly into the OS (removing the need for CIQ, or even for Stryd if Garmin would just finally release it “with power”).
      With CIQ, they can’t control much, but with “native” metrics, they could then prevent the same displays that are verboten, allowing only power numbers and not distance/stride reporting in the active watch screens.

      If they must leave CIQ enabled, then they should take steps to prevent disapproved data being transmitted in the background (for instance, disabling GPS API hooks during “Adventure Race” (AR) mode. But this might cause CIQ apps to not even load properly or crash, who knows…
      So back to “don’t allows CIQ usage during AR mode. And fix/incorporate power metric recording (and/or whatever other sensor metrics may exist that currently need CIQ to incorporate) from 3rd party sensors into the OS directly.
      I guess the events themselves will have to police that no CIQ apps are loaded in the watch at the start or finish of the event to prevent this bypass. (Someone could easily load a modified CIQ app that appears harmless “daily horoscope” and actually provides position/distance info, so realistically NO CIQ apps should be allowed resident on these watches during such events, unless Garmin does put a block in before final firmware release preventing their use while in AR mode.

    • Joop Verdoorn

      What they might be able to do (or maybe even have done), is limit the metrics that datafields can retrieve from the API watch interface. There are classes that give the information of the current activity (like distance). To ensure compatibility, they could even deliver zero’s for those metrices. The Stryd datafield uses communication over a custom ANT+ channel and wouldn’t be affected

    • Yeah, I suppose the problem there though in allowing the custom ANT+ channel is that it’s no different. In that custom ANT+ channel Stryd can easily (and probably does, I haven’t looked) transmit pace details, which are otherwise hidden by the system.

      While I understand the desire around people to have Stryd data, I just don’t think it (or any other CIQ app I’ve seen yet) rises to the level of being “absolutely needed” for this particular sport profile. As noted with Stryd, your data is saved to the footpod anyway, and then synced to the platform behind the scenes and even tied to your Garmin produced activity. Thus, from a Stryd user specifically standpoint – the use are is surprisingly well covered already.

      Now – I could see scenarios where a race might want to make a (really cool) special CIQ app for check-in of waypoints or such. That’d be super cool, and could be accomplished through ANT+ beacons (something that was long ago rolled out/envisioned). But, Garmin could also probably have white-listing system in CIQ for apps that were permitted, that supported watches would look for a certain flag in the delivered CIQ package for.

    • Joop Verdoorn

      Cadance is the only metric that is communicated, that could be used to determine distance. But you are right, the Stryd footpod can act as a standalone. And I can make a datafield that uses the data from a custom ANT+ channel, so that is a potential issue. Whitelisting datafields or apps is indeed more feasible, but it would then make more sense for Garmin to just ban all IQ datafields when using this activity profile.

  10. Sid

    Thanks for the update! Sorry for the unrelated question but any rumors of Garmin adding an iOS widget for their Connect app?

  11. Trax101

    They have added this new profile but not the hiit profile! Can we now assume this isn’t coming to the Fenix 6 and will be a Fenix 7 addition?

  12. Gar

    Is an adventure race not just a multi sport that is not a triathlon or duathlon? Example. Run, Bike, Hike, Kayak, Run

  13. John Turner

    I would not think it a good idea to venture into the wilderness without knowing how to navigate/dead-reckon as batteries die, electronics fail and Murphy is an everpresent companion. This feature should aid in the learning or practicing of such skills.

  14. acousticbiker

    Thanks, Ray!

    On Fenix releases, looks like 6 Solar was 7a Central (link to garmin.com) and 5 Plus was on a Monday at 12a Central (link to garmin.com)

    • I believe Garmin moved their internal blog system at some point after the Fenix 5 Plus was released, and thus, all the timestamps there defaulted to midnight.

      If you check out my Fenix 5 Plus in-depth review, it shows the first comment rolling in around 7:28AM (all times on the site are US Eastern Time): link to dcrainmaker.com

      Which means i was probably a few mins behind that day. 🙂

    • David

      But it was on a Monday

    • Yeah, I can’t remember the exact reason why they did that then (Monday). It’s incredibly rare (virtually unheard of for Garmin or anyone else, except if it’s a CES release) – but there wasn’t any events tied to it, save for Fathers Day the day prior.

      In general, you don’t announce products on weekends or Friday. And usually not Monday. They tend to get buried. Same goes for weird times like midnight – it loses momentum because embargoed news goes out at that time and then nboody sees it since it gets buried by other news by time people wake up.

      For example, standard company embargo times are:

      Garmin – 7AM US Eastern
      GoPro: 6AM US Pacific
      DJI: 9AM US Eastern
      Wahoo: Usually 9AM US Eastern, but sometimes an hour later
      Polar: Usually 10AM GMT
      Suunto: Generally late morning Finland time, but varies
      Zwift: Tends to be 1-2PM UK time, but often all over the map
      Apple: Tied to their 10AM Pacific events, and then product review embargoes are usually 7AM or 8AM Eastern

      And yes, I know I’ve mixed and matched time zones here, largely because it’s actually how I tend to get the embargo times – by the host city of the companies HQ (except, my brain can’t handle US Central or Mountain time zone conversions to CET, so I just force those to US Eastern times.) 🙂

    • Andrew Ziminski

      I wonder if I’m the only one that woke up this AM at 6:59, looked at the clock, and then came here just in case 🙂

  15. Bengt-Olov Sundström

    Vore bra

  16. Graham R

    I wish the beta release notes were cumulative – 16.70 is the latest public – and you have to dig through the forums to find and sort all the beta notes to see what changed which is brutal (unless i’m dense..)

    How hard would it be to say
    18.77 –
    New and Fixed since 17.72

    17.72 (what changed since 17.xx) – Link https://forums.garmin.com/outdoor-recreation/outdoor-recreation/f/fenix-6-series/266363/fenix-6-series—17-72-public-beta

    17.xx — (what changed since 16.70)

    etc

    • Graham R

      *Snapped*

      For those curious:
      18.77 Change Log Notes:
      * New Adventure Race activity: This new activity prevents use of GPS data fields for navigation, allowing the watch to be used in adventure racing and orienteering races where GPS devices are not allowed.
      * Automatically disable Battery Saver when battery sufficiently charged.
      * Fixed issue with default FTP value for XC Ski.
      * Fixed issue with distance to green layout while using ‘Big Numbers’ mode in golf activity profile.
      * Fixed potential crash when viewing ConnectIQ widgets in glance list.
      * Fixed potential crash while using ClimbPro.
      * Fixed issue where “Calibration Complete” message was truncated for some languages.
      * Fixed an issue where some training metrics were not updated after downloading stored heart rate from a capable chest strap.
      * Fixed issue where the LAP key may not advance workout step.
      * Fixed issue where Treadmill distance/pace would not record if watch was also connected to another nearby training device.
      * Other minor improvements and bug fixes.
      17.75 Change Log Notes:
      * Fixed issue with connecting ANT/BLE sensors when phone connection disabled via power modes.
      * Fixed issue with configuring map state. (Only applies to tactix Delta)
      * Other minor improvements and bug fixes.
      17.74 Change Log Notes:
      * Improved Body Battery estimation when the device is powered off for a long period of time.
      * Fixed issue where Garmin Pay is not detected by payment terminal.
      * Other minor improvements and bug fixes.
      17.73 Change Log Notes:
      * Updated Battery Saver to automatically disable when device charged to at least 80%.
      * Fixed text truncation issues when calibrating altimeter or barometer for some languages.
      * Fixed crash when viewing Connect IQ apps in the widget list.
      17.72 Change Log Notes:
      * Added the ability to rate the perceived effort and feel of a Run, Bike, or Swim activity. The prompts appear during activity save. Go to [Activity] Settings > Self Evaluation for options.
      * Added sleep tracking widget with sleep score and insights by Firstbeat AnalyticsTM.
      * Added metabolic calories into the total calories reported in the calories data field and recorded in the activity file.
      * Added setting to enable/disable workout audio prompts.
      * Updated workout audio prompts for hundredths distance precision.
      * Updated Intensity Minutes determinations to align with guidance from CDC.
      * Improved feedback on stress level readings.
      * Improved calorie calculations for activities using a power meter.
      * Improved results for daily Body Battery calculations.
      * Improved visibility of Climb Pro alert page.
      * Improved power meter calibration and settings.
      * Improved layout of target card page. (Only applies to tactix Delta – Solar Edition with Ballistics)
      * Fixed issue where compass would become unresponsive during SUP activities.
      * Fixed issue with incorrect energy values on range card. (Only applies to tactix Delta – Solar Edition with Ballistics)
      * Fixed issue with manual time setup during initial setup.
      * Fixed display issues when editing data field layouts.
      * Fixed issue where recovery sets would not be properly displayed during workouts.
      * Fixed issue where a Suggested Workout could draw with a nearly blank diagram.
      * Fixed issue with editing data screens for Ultra Run app.
      * Connect IQ improvements and bug fixes.
      * Other minor improvements and bug fixes.

    • Jar

      I completely agree with you. This gets you pretty much there (from a user though – this seems to be too hard for Garmin…): link to gpsinformation.net

    • Graham R

      Turns out when you click the forum link to actually download the beta the FULL changelog is there… /facepalm.

      link to www8.garmin.com

  17. Marco

    Let us meet here in *december* again to speak about the Fenix 7😉

  18. Thomas

    According to two Garmin dealers here in NZ, the Fenix 7 will be releasing in March 2022.

    • Robin

      Funny, I’m in NZ and a dealer told me it would be released “imminently” as it was ready for release a month or so back and ha been delayed. (I am noticing the F6 is on sale a lot at the moment).

      I guess the only people who really know are Garmin, and Ray or course.

    • Marco

      the release of the fenix 7 would have been planned for august. Now it has been postponed to December

  19. Leo

    Typical Garmin. Just add an activity to make the list with activities longer. People will choose a watch with 1000 possible activities over a watch with just 25.

    And how well that new activity works, well, that’s not garmins concern.

    • Marco

      the release of the fenix 7 would have been planned for august. Now it has been postponed to December

    • leo

      I have no interest in a bulky overpriced watch.

      The good news for me is that the basic features I need are available in cheaper garmin watches and other brands are also catching up. Since Polar watches have navigation they become interesting for me. And so are Coros watches.

    • Paul N.

      You can choose which activities you want to see on your watch so unless you want to you won’t have to scroll through the full list. Nothing wrong with having more options.

    • Picard_germany

      No other Brand has a watch in line with that myriads of Training protocol options, full map Navigation and outstanding battery time… That’ s for sure!

  20. Dave Craig

    Until the London Marathon came along, the sport of orienteering still held the record for the largest mass participation sporting event – the O-Ringen link to en.wikipedia.org. Although relatively niche in many countries, the sales to orienteering alone make features like this worthwhile.

    • Graham R

      I spent MANNNNY weekend in the woods in grade school as an Army Cadet here in Canada competing in orienteering competitions.

      I love grabbing a topo map and just going for a wander (something I can’t do as much since kids etc) – but this mode has me eager to get out there and link up with the local association again.

  21. TAFB

    New beta firmware removes the CIQ field:

    Removed ability to add Connect IQ data fields to Adventure Racing.

    • Yup indeed! Garmin just sent me over a quick note about it too.

    • Brian Reiter

      The 8.79 beta firmware did remove connectIQ fields from Adventure Race but it also apparently deletes existing activity profiles from the watch. They have removed 8.79 beta from download and replaced it with 8.77 for now.

      I expect the intention is to not have CIQ fields in Adventure Race, so no navigation loophole by the time the feature is production ready.

      Honestly ConnectIQ is flaky enough that I would not use a ConnectIQ field in a scenario where the watch is a primary navigation device in the wilderness. Like an unmarked mountain trail race that requires GPS navigation.

      It would be nice if you could mark some activity profiles to run in “safe” mode with ConnectIQ totally disabled, like Adventure Race (will be) and like Dive modes for the Descent series. A potential place to put this is the Power Manager when configuring profiles.

  22. pavlinux

    Found a backdoor, how to see the map or track. Publish after an announcement of a stable version! 😀

  23. Michael

    Don’t all the ciq apps need the phone to run them anyway? And given that during the adventure race you are required to have your phone turned off and in a sealed bag then no data would be transmitted anyway.
    However, by removing it means it makes it just that little bit harder for the cheaters that would cheat anyway.

    • There’s no dependency on a phone for CIQ apps, after loaded onto the watch (unless of course, that CIQ app accesses the phone/internet, such as a weather app or something). But the overwhelming vast majority don’t.

  24. Zoltan

    “ Oh, and finally, to preempt what will invariably be the first comment below: When will Garmin announce a Fenix 7? Most definitely 7AM US Eastern time on Tuesday. Sometimes Wednesday or Thursday, but certainly still 7AM US Eastern Time. Never a Monday or Friday though, even at 7AM. Also, probably not this Tuesday. Possibly linked to a trade show (those exist still?) or race, but possibly not. Definitely before they announce a Fenix 8 though – and certainly before a Fenix 10 or Fenix 11.”

    LOL

    Anyway let me place a wager, just for fun, let it be 24th August 2021. Maybe 0700 ET, but the exact time is not part of my bet.

  25. Neeme

    Elevation though….it can help tons with navigation (with a map with contours of course). Definitely not allowed in orienteering.