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Copying the Cool Kids

November 2, 2006

To reward myself for sticking with running, I got an iPod a few weeks ago, an apple green nano. I’ve named it kPod, and we’re in love.

Our relationship got off to a bit of a rocky start, though. Getting going with iTunes and loading songs was easy; there’s plenty of help online but the interface is so user-friendly that I didn’t need to look up too many things. (Also, the look of the drop down boxes on the registration screen was the best I’ve seen, which put me a good frame of mind from the get go.) The problems started when I first took it out for a run. I tried to use it in place of my trusty little kitchen timer. It was easier to hold in my hand than the timer, especially since I’d clothed it in a stretchy case (called the Jam Jacket Pro–hah) that’s plenty grippy. It was harder to time my intervals with it, however. Having no prior experience using a click wheel, I had lots of trouble working the stopwatch function. I’d click Pause instead of Lap and then compound the error by clicking Done instead of Resume. I got distracted by fiddling with it and missed a turn and ended up on a street I had no intention of being on (not that it was dangerous, it just meant a longer trek home). I didn’t complete the intervals I wanted to, and I’m not even sure what intervals I did do since I messed up so much with the stopwatch.

My second and subsequent workouts with it have gone much better. Instead of holding it, I now strap it to my arm with the band included with the case and use my kitchen timer the way I always have. I’ve only created two playlists so far. The first pulled from soundtracks: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Backdraft, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I listened to the latter CD before my first race and felt energized, swashbuckling my way up the freeway. Now I swashbuckle through the subdivisions, and instead of my internal dialogue going something like “this is hard–is this interval done yet?–I need to pee–is that shoe tied too tight?” it’s more like “this is hard–pirates!–46 seconds left–hippogriff!–I need to pee–Iron Chef!–is my foot falling asleep? how can my foot be falling asleep?–Yule Ball!” My second playlist is all NFL Films music, with a couple voiceover tracks from John Facenda–very stirring.

One of the main reasons I got a nano was so I could use the Nike+ Sport Kit, which one of my coworkers has and likes and thought I would like, too. It keeps records of one’s workouts, kind of like my old exercise log but more high tech. Since I love data and since I could use it with my non-Nike shoes, I was sold. I wanted to get used to running with music before I added the extra element of a voice talking to me through my earbuds, so I didn’t try it out until last night. I intended to use Velcro to attach the chip to my shoe tongue, but I couldn’t find any Velcro and my coworker said she just shoves it under her laces and hasn’t had any problems, so I shoved it under my laces and headed out. You can probably guess where this is going–I lost the chip. I had just started my second running interval when the voice in my earbuds said “Activity stopped.” Um, no, activity had not stopped. It was the chip that had stopped somewhere along the route. I’d read here about this very thing and so knew it was two minutes behind me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clear idea how far I’d come in two minutes, plus most of the route isn’t lit well, and I’d recently crossed a busy street so for all I knew cars were running over it. I backtracked a bit and looked around and didn’t see it, so resumed my workout with just music, pondering as I went whether it made sense to go back home and get a flashlight or if I should wait until morning or perhaps just buy a new one. Before my last set of intervals, I came back to the area where I thought I’d lost it and looked some more. No chip, but I did find a bottle cap in the grass–that was white and rounded at least. I headed home the way I’d come and there, sitting on the asphalt path next to the grade school, was my chip, nowhere near where I was planning to look for it once I grabbed a flashlight. Then I remembered that I’d heard the “Activity stopped” message earlier, just after my first jogging interval, but since it coincided with me actually stopping (to pick up a tissue that had fallen out of my pocket when I went to blow my nose), I just thought the Nike+ lady was a stern taskmaster. Lesson learned; next time I’ll secure the chip much better.

The good news from last night’s run, other than finding the chip, was that it was much less hard to increase from three minutes jogging to four minutes than I thought it would be. It wasn’t like four minutes was easy, but I was able to complete all seven of the planned intervals (albeit with long pauses to search the grass and sidewalks after the first and before the last). I’m encouraged that I seem to be making some real progress. I’ve even started to feel like a runner–I suit up and head out into the dark and the cold and the first interval even feels a little good. I’ve signed up for another race a week from Sunday; surely I wouldn’t do that if I weren’t a runner.

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