Tuesday, April 8, 2008



I started running last summer after seeing a set of podcasts that made the whole thing really easy. I even ran my first 5k (not a sponsored one, just me out running one night), the longest distance I had run since track season in high school.

Near the end of the season last year, I hurt my knee because of the way I run. It turns out that I roll my feet on the inside, which wears away the soles of my shoes and is rough on my knee. This season, now that the weather is breaking, I decided to grab some supporting Nikes. While I was at the shoe store, the salesman offered me the Nike+ sports set - which fit my style of shoe - and I decided to give it a try.

It seems like for $30 you'd get more, but the whole set only involves a little red and white sensor and a white plug-in receiver for your iPod Nano. Setup is super easy: simply put the sensor into the little hole in your shoe (you don't need a Nike shoe, either), and plug the other part into your iPod. That's it.

To calibrate the sensor, I charted a mile walk around a nearby park. The sensor read the mile distance very well, reading out "0.98 miles" by the time I reached the actual mile. After the calibration I set the iPod to a normal workout to see how it did. Here's what I got:


I only walked a mile, but it still charted my pace and how many calories I burned. Pretty cool. You can set your iPod to give you voiced encouragement (in male or female), and set it for miles or metric.

After iTunes logged my first "run," I went to the Nike+ site to upload my info, and it showed me a cool visualization of the whole thing:


But that's where I got my first hiccup. I tried registering for the Nike+ community stuff, and accidentally logged my birth year as "2008." The site then froze, saying "children under age 13 are not allowed to register." After logging off, then logging back into the sight with Safari, it was still locking me out. A quick call to Nike HQ, and a friendly guy name Mike (who works on a Sunday!) told me that the site resets these kinds of things after two hours.

I waited until Monday afternoon to try again, entering my true birthday, and things were smooth sailing. I set a goal for myself, and typed in a resolution:


There at the top, it shows my profile information and custom icon. It also logged my mile-long Sunday walk. The coolest part of the whole deal is the challenges.


People from around the world post challenges based on distance, most miles accumulated, fastest time running a certain distance, and a distance goal - say, 50 miles during a month. You can do it individually or in teams, and if you meet the challenge you get awarded a trophy. I signed up for a few simple challenges just to get me started:


So for this one I have to run seven miles. That's it. Some of them, however, are pretty challenging - made for only the hardcore runners you hear stories about. But the competition is there, and I could feel the motivational effects before I even took my first run. After reading some of the challenges, I wanted to lace up my Nikes and get started on those challenges.

Forums, a store, customizable maps of your routes - the whole thing is pretty comprehensive. One thing that turned me off, though, was the site's Flash interface. Sometimes it would grind to a halt, and the transitions between the site's areas were painfully slow. I did try a desktop application, HERE, but it may take me a while to get the hang of it.

I still have to get out and try the Nike+ kit on a true run, but until then I'm pretty well impressed. As the running season goes along, I'll report anything else I find. But I've picked my "Powersong" (KMFDM's "DIY"), I've got my iTunes playlist ready, and my shoes are broken-in.

Someone cue "Eye of the Tiger."

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