Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gadgets, gadgets everywhere, and nothing that will sync

It’s snowing again. Pretty and all, but I am now on the bus with people awaiting the arrival of more spring-like weather. However, given the white flakes falling down, I made my way over to the gym to get in a 4 mile run and some weights.

As I have mentioned in the past, I have become slightly addicted to my Nike+ sport kit, using it to track my miles and pace. Even on the days I don’t listen to music, I still tote along my Nano and use the Nike+ tools. For someone who is looking for basic tracking contrivances and not a lot of extra stuff, this setup really does work well.

However, I do need to lodge a complaint: the sensors suck.

This wasn’t always the case. My first shoe sensor was fantastic, lasting for just over a year. This seemed about right to me given my general weekly mileage (in the 15-20 mile range last year). The sport kit costs $30, and given all the running-related things one can spend money on (jackets and socks and shirts, oh my!), it was, arguably, a cheap investment. Heck, any large race will cost you 2x-3x as much.

But, as all electronic things go, it eventually died. This was in November 2007. I ran for a while without it, but missed the little guy and started thinking about when I’d get a replacement. Fast forward to December, when I discovered it was now possible to simply buy a shoe sensor, as opposed to a whole new kit. $20 instead of $30.

Bought one. The short version of the story: It never hooked up with my Nano. Picture me banging my foot, or just an empty shoe, around to try to get them to connect… After searching around for help and not finding any, I gave up/gave in and bought the whole kit again. $30.

The new sensor kit worked immediately, but showed up as a new user. Thus, any previous runs I’d logged were not accounted for, and any of the online challenges in which I’m involved didn’t count my miles. Mind you, I’m not really winning any of the challenges – as with my actual racing life, my online racing life is one of a middle of the pack runner – but I still want it to be known that I’m trying.

It took a while (end of December-ish), but finally I got the two users (i.e., me and me) to speak to one another. Yay! Back to the regularly scheduled program.

Now, only two months later, the sensor is toast. Less than 250 miles logged, and it’s done for. Let’s do the math… $20 for non-working sensor, $30 for short-lived sport kit = $50 of unhappy me. And Apple won’t take them back (although I’m not done with that part yet… I’m still pressing to get something for the poor product quality).

I am so frustrated with the situation, and possibly even more frustrated for letting the situation make me frustrated.

So, this morning, as I hit the treadmill, it was just me and some music. No sport kit. And I still ran four miles. And it still counted.

I think I’m reverting back to the GOFRL (good old fashioned running log). Runner’s World happened to send me one last week – I think as a thank you for my subscription oh, two years ago – and tonight I’ll log a few miles into it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ain't nothing gonna break my stride...

How many running blogs have used that title? Allow me to be the latest one...

I headed out today for a 5 mile run. It was supposed to be 8, but I managed to whittle enough of the day away doing who knows what to pinch the amount of time I had for a relaxed run (i.e., not worrying about time) and shaved off a few. Perhaps that was a subconscious thing; I'm choosing to not read in to it too deeply.

It started off as a pretty eh run - I went out of the gate too fast, and started to feel the repercussions in the first two miles. My bad. I know better than to gun it at the start, particularly as I live in a rather hilly area, and on top of that I live at the top of the hill. Thus, the early part of most runs is heading downhill, and the last stretch is mostly uphill.

Good training for races, sure, but sometimes I think it would be nice to live in a flat area. Like Arizona. Here are topography maps for my standard paths:

My usual three mile route:

My usual five mile route:

My usual eight mile route:

It's like a really long, really slow roller coaster.

Today was the five mile path pictured above, and after allowing myself a bit of a walking interlude post starting too fast, I finished pretty strong. My ego was boosted a little when I realized that I was jogging my way all the way up the final stretch of hill. I realized that this was happening about half way through, and spent the rest of the time trying not to think about it too much, lest I start to wonder if I was fatigued and start to psych myself out.

Instead, I thought about the fact that I was hitting a stride (hence the blog entry title), and it felt good. The legs were going, the breathing was steady, and my body was relaxed. It's been a while since I have felt like a little machine moving along, a feeling I generally enjoy.

Given that my team is now officially registered for Reach the Beach (my credit card is on fire a little from laying out the hefty entry fee), I have started to think more seriously about the training involved. I have a few races planned, and even a teeny little triathlon for kicks. More on those another time. For now, I'm just happy that my body is starting to get back the muscle memory it had a year ago, and that I'm finding my stride again.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Trade the PC hat for a trucker's cap!

I was invited to go to a hockey game this evening - our local minor league team, the Manchester Monarchs. I like hockey well enough, so sure, I'm in.

Yesterday, I found out that this won't be just any night of hockey. It's mullet night!

Here's the official promo:

Mar 7, 2008 at 7:05 pm
Mullet Night: Redneck Edition
It’s back! “Mullet Night: Redneck Edition” will be filled with Redneck activities, music, on-ice entertainment as well as the distribution of 3,500 mullet trucker hats and Redneck teeth, courtesy of Sanel Auto Parts! So dust off your old mullet wigs, throw on your best hunting gear and join us for another unforgettable Mullet Night with the Monarchs.

Not just mullet night - but mullet night, redneck edition. Heavens.

What are redneck activities?

I'm bringing a camera, and a zoom lens.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

I was duped by the weather report yesterday. It was predicted to be cold, windy, and rainy for most of the day. Looking out the window, all of that was true. Not in the mood to gear up for a windy, chilly run, I opted to head to the gym and run on a treadmill.

I don’t love running on a treadmill, but it does the job when necessary.

Anyways, after chatting with the cute membership girl who initially signed me up for the place, I headed over to my usual spot to get on the belt and jog for a bit. I tend to go to the same area as a) there is the option of not having a television screen in front of you, and b) I have certain objects along the warehouse-like ceiling that I generally stare at while I visualize being outside. I am a creature of habit.

About 2.5 miles into the run, the strangest thing happened – I started to overheat. Not just get sweaty, but more akin to an internal kiln being lit. It seemed like the air wasn’t moving around me (perhaps in that part of the gym it doesn’t really), and my internal temperature rose by a couple of degrees. I stepped off to the sides of the moving belt for a minute to slowly wave my arms (I’m sure this looked quite odd) and create some sort of faux breeze, and then resumed. A mile later I had to do it again.

Of course, once I went through this self-cooling behavior a couple of times, I started to second guess myself on what was happening. Was I tricking myself into thinking that I was overheating, so I could cease with the day’s run? Should I really have gone outside despite the rain?

Stupid brain – it doesn’t really like to shut off. It just spins and spins.

I had this conversation with myself for a while (which, I should add, also included me cheering myself on and thinking about my longer-term goals), until I hit my stated goal of five tread-miles and moved on to the stretching portion of the workout.

After taking a cold shower to shut off the kiln, I got dressed and headed outside. Where it was totally beautiful and sunny. Almost like a perfect fall day. Damn.

Monday, March 3, 2008

T minus 5 days


I am technically supposed to be working, but it’s my last week at this job and I don’t have a heck of a lot to do. I am past the point of trying to look busy. Or caring if I don’t. I’m closer to the feeling of, “what are they going to do, fire me?” which gives me plenty of time to do things like write a little blog entry, or take care of administrative items on the home front.

On an semi-related note, I have been here at my desk for hours and spoken with no one. I’ve gotten emails from people who are two desks away, but no spoken words. It’s totally weird how little they talk to each other some days.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I made a commitment to run this year’s Reach the Beach relay. I took advantage of this non-busy work time to organize and register my team. We’ll soon be paid up (which is the point at which you are really, really registered), and then I can start to turn my focus from logistics to the actual training.

The race isn’t until September, which is long enough away from now that I feel like I have some luxury of time to set out a plan and ramp up to actually following it. While I have been fairly consistent with my running/strengthening, this is just the excuse I need to take it up a notch. First step in that is getting organized. Rather than just, “I think I’ll go for a run,” I need to start thinking about some sort of schedule and more attention paid to what I put into my body. Which roughly translates as how can I still answer my sweet tooth and maintain proper nutrition on the whole.

I also wouldn’t mind taking my mile time down a bit, and I know that’s entirely possible if I put in the effort.

Yesterday I went on a little cross training adventure, heading over to the Boston Rock Gym with a climbing-enthusiast friend of mine. If he could climb his way to the office and repel home, I’m sure he would. My climbing skills are novice to say least, and while I was technically belay certified at a college gym, I liken that to learning to SCUBA dive in a resort pool – it just isn’t the same.

After practicing my figure 8 knots for a while and learning some climb-related lingo at said enthusiast’s house, off we went to the gym. I passed my test with semi-flying colors (perhaps walking colors is more appropriate) and we proceeded to pick our way through some of the various climbs offered all along the walls.

Was it a superfuntastic time? Mostly. Being nervous that I would screw up and let him drop 30 feet to the ground below (or have him land on top of me) made it a little harder to focus on the fun aspect. And man, does it give a workout to the fingers and wrists… Owie.

I am also new enough to the sport that I can’t help but be periodically distracted by the way the harnesses, um, exaggerate certain parts of the anatomy. Not to mention highlighting any extra cellulite on the thigh area. If that’s not a reminder to get thy ass to the gym/hit the roads, I don’t know what is.

Still, today I am proud of the soreness throughout my arms, as it’s a sign of the effort exerted yesterday.

Tonight I’ll focus on the lower half. Given this is my last week of commuting to Cambridge regularly, I’m trying to head out on the Minuteman Path frequently. It is (was?) a nice perk of this office location. Four miles is the minimum I’ll aim for, and, pending weather, it’ll hopefully be more like six.