By TypeA Girl PilotB.T.com Gear Reviewer
As I held the freshly delivered packaging for the Lap Track, I anticipated a generously sized underwater clock/timing device inside the box. Once I opened the box, I was somewhat deflated to find it was about an inch larger in circumference than a CD disk, and the actual viewing window with the readouts to be no larger than the area of the bottom of my Nalgene bottle. My immediate thought was, “This is NOT what it looks like in the pictures online.” I had thought that it would at least be the size of my hand, palm to fingertips. After all, that’s the image that I had remembered from the picture.
I went to finisinc.com to find the Finis Lap Track, and compared their image with what my hand looked like against the Lap Track product advertisement, and have now begun my preoccupation with the possibility that I am an owner of Man Hands. (Well, at least now I’m not obsessing about having shoulders like a linebacker anymore.) Though it would hardly matter—it is not as if I needed dainty fingers to press a tiny button on the timer to record laps. The user presses the entire unit and the whole thing is the button.
Swimming Lap Counter and Timer
$74.99 (2007 MSRP)
Underwater lap counting and timing that also estimates your calorie burn. Keeps track of laps and splits with a countdown feature as well.
AssemblyOnce I got over myself (wondering how I was ever able to manage typing on a laptop with such big hands), I decided to put my Man Hands to work. The Lap Track required some assembly before use. Depending on the type of pool you swim in, there are various ways in which the Lap Track can be mounted, so it came with some hardware: 2 pairs of suction cups (for different sized tiles), an attachable platform with extenders for use in pools that aren’t tiled, and a carrying bag that doubles as a weight when filled with water to stabilize the extender. The AA batteries required to run the Lap Track were included in the packaging, as well as a lanyard—just in case you couldn’t wait to use it before you got to the pool, you could style your Finis LP around your neck like Flavor Flav.
FunctionsAfter I got the batteries into the Lap Track and began to learn all its functions, I found it had every basic function you can ask for in a timing device. It has a main display showing the day, date, and time with two time zones, as well as up to three daily alarms.
As you swim, the unit will count, time, and compare your lap times (but the MEMORY retains only up to 50 laps – a “lap” being an out and back to the same side of the pool where the Lap Track is located)
Meters, Yards and Miles
Distance swum is either measured in meters or miles in the Lap Track, depending on how you choose to set it up. Well, what if your pool is in yards? Consider it the same as the meters. 1 lap in a standard meter pool is 50 meters, 1 lap in a yard pool is 50 yards. (Unless, of course, you are swimming in an Olympic-sized pool, then you adjust the lap distance within the settings of the Lap Track). In other words, disregard the meter label and consider it to be yards.
There is no automatic function within the unit to convert yards or meters per lap into miles, so you just have to figure that out on your own if you want to know how many miles you’ve swum using this device.
You can also set the Lap Track to time intervals with the Loop Timer Function. On these intervals, as you finish each interval, it will display the difference in time if you swam faster or slower than the intervals you set, while still at the same time recording your laps. You also have the option to choose “swimming style,” or type of stroke you are swimming.
When using the Lap Chrono function, you can either set the number of laps you want to swim, or set the laps to zero and count up (to the maximum of 50 laps to be stored). If you have the Lap Track count down the number of laps you want to swim, the timer will stop when you finish swimming all of your pre-set laps.
If you use the Lap Chrono to count laps up from 0, you can continue swimming past 50 laps—the timer will continue to run, and the laps counted will continue to be displayed, but only the first 50 laps will be saved to memory. An indication saying FULL will remind you of that every time you press it to record a lap. After 99 laps, the lap counter will reset to zero. Again, if you stop the chrono and lap counter any time 50 laps has been exceeded, the display will show how many laps you’ve swum (up to 99 before resetting to zero), but once you navigate away from that display, only the last 50 laps will be retrievable again.
If you are doing multiple sets (ex: 10 sets of 100s), when you start and stop the Lap Chrono, those laps within the set will be recorded and stored as separate sets, but some of the memory is used when you save each set. So the number of sets you save will determine how many laps will be saved, which will be less than 50.
You can personalize the unit so that it estimates calories burned, which is soley based on the weight you enter for yourself in the user settings.
For triathlon swim training, the Lap Timer Function would be used the most. This screen is packed full with lots of information – the number of laps done, total elapsed time, time it took for the current lap just completed, and calories burned.
While this timer was loaded with very interesting features, like any sports watch, you have to be patient and learn how to navigate around the different menus using the buttons. The layout and flow of the directions and instructions sheet made it difficult to follow, though, and I quickly lost my patience.Where to Mount?
There are four ways to mount this device. At its most basic, if you swim in a pool in which the water level is level with the deck, you simply place the Lap Track on top of the deck face up and reach your hand out of the water to tap the Lap Track.
Standard Pool - Tiled
In a “standard pool” where the water level does not reach deck level, Finis recommends that you mount the Lap Track above water level, using the suction cups provided. In tile pools where the water level is close to deck level, you simply mount the Lap Track on the tiles on the pool wall, again using the suction cups provided.
Standard Pool - Non-Tiled
Lastly, on non-tiled pools, you can fill the carrying bag with water to make it a weight, and attach the Lap Track to the extenders – its base sits underneath the water-weighted bag to stabilize it in the water since the Lap Track has a tendency to float up to the surface.
Pool Field TestMy pool has small, roughly ½” tiles. I had high hopes for the suction cups as I’d attached the Lap Track to glass at my house to test out how sensitive the unit was to tapping, and the suction cups performed wonderfully on flat glass. However this was not the case in the pool. The device comes with two sets of suction cups (one for large tiles and one for small tiles), and in either case, neither set successfully kept my Lap Track attached to the tiles, submerged in water, which is my number one preference for mounting it. I have no idea how the suction cups would have performed out of the water on small tiles (I have yet to find a pool to accommodate that method of mounting), but the Lap Track successfully remained attached to large tiles, not submerged in water…the test wall being my shower.
No worries, I’ll just set the Lap Track on the deck and tap it after every lap. I purposely centered it in the middle of the lane so I wouldn’t waste any time having to locate it by popping my head up too high out of the water and off I went for my first 50 (one lap) in my warm-up set of 500 yards. It was very awkward when I got back to the wall. I ended up having to pause much longer than I’d like, because the time it took to actually get my arm out of the water, tap the timer, reposition my body in the other direction and kick off the wall again to begin swimming again just took too long. I tried this method again for another three laps, then decided that the last method to try would probably be more to my liking. Keep in mind that during the four laps that I did keeping the Lap Track flat on the deck, I was just simply tapping the device. I would have wasted even more time having to stand up on the pool bottom to actually position myself to VIEW the display. It was clear to me that using the chrono function on my wristwatch would be an easier method to track and monitor my lap splits.
So I assembled the Lap Track onto the platform, attached the extenders, filled the carrying bag with water and used it to weigh down the base of the extenders. The extenders worked great, and the water filled bag weighted the base of the extenders adequately enough so the timer wouldn’t slide around. That whole system worked beautifully! Unfortunately, I could hardly appreciate the full beauty of the timing and lap counting functionality of this thing while swimming. Approaching the wall, it wasn’t easy to view the small figures that made up the splits for each lap, the lap count, or calories—just the large display showing the total time elapsed was easily visible. It is a sturdy unit, but I don’t believe that if you do flip turns and are accurate enough to tap the timer with your foot and push off, that it would last very long, or even remain attached or suspended in the same place after several tap/push-offs.Final ThoughtsI believe that this product has lots of room for improvement, from the reliability of the suction cups underwater, to the size of the face of the display, to the user-friendliness of all the different functions. I cannot go to the pool after using this a few times and be able to quickly bounce back and forth from the interval loop timer function to resetting intervals without the already hard-to-follow instructions. A waterproof quick-reference guide would be nice to have.
Provided one was proficient in setting up the different functions of the Lap Track, I think that a short-course triathlete would benefit most from this, since it only records splits up to 50 laps, or 2500 yards/meters. It could also come in handy for shorter interval workouts.
This device is a novelty that I think could improve in design in the future. For a 2007 MSRP of $74.99, I prefer to buy 2 of my favorite waterproof sport watches that has the same memory and is just as easy to read.
Lap TrackUnderwater Lap Counting and TimingBy Finis
A Note on the Author: TypeA Girl Pilot has been a member of Beginner Triathlete since 2004, the same year she began competing in triathlons. She loves participating in open water swim races, all road races from 10Ks to marathons, and century rides to supplement her overall triathlon training. This one-time Ironman finisher’s favorite race is the Mooseman Half Ironman. She will be competing in Ironman Lake Placid 2007. You are welcome to contact her at mmc at beginnertriathlete dot com or via PM on this website with any questions or comments.