Automatic Track Detection and Race Routes are new features in watchOS 9.2, which was released today. Apple Maps andGPS can be used to detect the exact lane of a track, while the other lets you race against your past self on your favorite routes. During multisport activities, the Apple Watch Ultra can be used for up to 17 hours in low power mode.

Automatic Track Detection can tell you if you're on a 400 meter track. Runners will be asked to choose the lane at the start of the outdoor run. You will be prompted during the workout after you arrive if you have to run to the track. Track workouts will allow you to receive lap alert. Users can manually submit information if the watch can't detect the track.

The race routes are not the same. If you run the same route at least two times, you will be able to race your best time on that particular route. The upper right of an outdoor run workout has a three-dot button. You can use the filters to view all the possible race routes. The watch will tell you if you are running faster or slower than before. This feature is also applicable to runners. Cyclists can do the same things.

Automatic Track Detection and Race Routes were teased along with the Apple Watch Series 8. The features are part of a larger push in watchOS 9 that brought advanced running metrics to the Apple Watch as well as more detailed workout views. The features aren't restricted to the newest watches. If you have a Series 4 or later, you can try them out.

Render of Automatic Track Detection on Apple Watch
Automatic Track Detection uses Apple Maps and GPS to detect when you’ve arrived at a 400m track.
Image: Apple

I tried an earlier version of Race Routes when it was part of the watchOS 9 preview earlier this summer. If you have a competitive streak, it can be a motivating feature. I wouldn't recommend it for every ride on a specific route. When benchmarking my progress, it was the most useful for me.

Good news for Ultra owners as well. In Low Power Mode, the Ultra can be used for up to 17 hours during a multisport activity. Apple said in the past that the Ultra should be able to last the entire of an ironman in this mode. The average triathlon time is 14 hours, so this adds a bit of cushion for slower competitors.