Wednesday, March 28, 2007

iPod Inspiration

Magazine art and advertisements are there for a reason. They (the collective advertising media) want to make you think, they want to inspire you and of course buy their products. The magazine is a product in itself, the flashier the photos especially the covers the wider the appeal. You want picture yourself like the person on the cover.

One such cover that made me think every time I picked it up was the back cover of TrailRunner magazine from a few months ago. On it was Monica Scholz winner of Badwater Ultra in the women’s division. First of all there is nothing sexy or alluring about the photo, the woman is on Whitney Portal Road which I’m guessing from the blur of desolate landscape in the background is in the lower section still in Death Valley.

What I find interesting is what she is wearing. Her feet although it doesn’t say it looks like she’s wearing open toed running shoes. Which would prominently display her Injinji running socks (her sponsor)? It looks like she’s running in a skirt, a black one which sounds weird. Maybe it’s a gimmick maybe its not but it does make me think. She of course has on the white hat with flap on the back to protect the neck. She’s got on some nondescript sunglasses which once again makes me think. They aren’t Oakley’s or Bolle or some other sport sunglasses company. These thing look like something my Mom would wear. And lastly she has on her iPod shuffle (old style) complete with sport case.

I guess the reason I study photos like these is because I want to know what these Ultra folks wear to keep comfortable. They wear this stuff not because of sponsorship but because it is the most functional. Badwater is an extreme ultra in that its 135 mile which is long by ultra standards and the searing heat of the Death Valley floor make it cruel and punishing. I would think most of the garb worn for this ultra is ideal only for Badwater: the hat, the open toed shoes, even the sunglasses (who need shades in the forest).

The iPod was a bit of a mystery and I guess if I ever got a chance to interview Monica I would ask her. Why the Shuffle with its flash memory it only has at most 5 to 6 hours of battery life at best. Most people doing Badwater take over 24 hours to complete. My next question would be how often you would listen to your iPod. I don’t care about her playlists that a personal choice and highly subjective. As for myself, I take my iPod on every run whether it’s twenty minutes or three hours that thing is playing in my ears. Sure on occasion I love to hear the sounds of nature especially when I’m in the trails. I love to hear the sound of my dog’s paws and pants. But most times I can’t or don’t get to the trails and its street noise that I don’t want to hear.

So I pose the question, if you train with an iPod are you not training for iPod conditions? Your cadence and rhythm are dictated by what you listen to. Your focus or your state of mental relaxation is often controlled by your iPod. So if it is such an integral part of your being, is wearing an iPod during a race a social faux pas? I can imagine if you’re doing a short 10K or 5K and you are surrounded by happy, social runners then it might be considered rude. But let’s get a reality check here. How much conversation really goes on during a road race? Unless you’re ‘aping’ someone and going stride for stride rarely are you within ear shod of other runners. Even the guy you are pacing off of isn’t going to want to talk except maybe to give you a quick verb and adverb for not taking the pace. (true story)

So in the end you either have to do what you want. I’ve got a race this weekend, a half marathon. Last year it was quite a conundrum the night before the race. The clothing part was easy it was cold race morning so I wore a jacket and toque but the iPod. I didn’t want to seem rude so I put it away. Only at the start line did I see a growing percentage of runners wearing theirs. So this year I’m going to wear my iPod. I going to load it full of upbeat music for before and during the race and maybe even throw in a short podcast. After race I’ll put it away and be social.


  1. Just an FYI, Whitney Portal Road is near Lone Pine, CA, in the Sierras--quite a way from Death Valley. She'd be nearing the finish line by that point. The last check-in point before the finish line is in the town of Lone Pine.

  2. So with this last bit of info. If Whitney Portal Road is closer to the finish. Is the iPod for that last little bit of motivation. At best the old Shuffle has 5 hours of playback. Which 5 hours do you choose in a race with over 24 hours of running?