We are not machines but we are enabled to become better humans through invention that quantifies our movement.
Tools, gadgets, software and soles, the innovation that enables the faster, safer, and bolder movement.
2 months ago
I've been recording a lot of zombie time lately.
That has nothing to do with the quickly approaching Halloween season nor with my unfortunate gait that has resulted from a damaged knee ligament. It's just what I've been calling that mental paralysis that results from having free time, a vague list of hobbies, and decision fatigue.
An example scenario:
It's 7pm on a weeknight. I've done a full day of work. We've eaten dinner and cleaned up. The dog has been walked and the kid is hunkered down texting her friends for the evening. It's not a night for a workout so I'm pretty much free to do something else of my choosing.
I could go in the basement and practice my violin (did I mention I play the violin?) A high value. way to spend an hour. Um. What else?
I could sit down with my art gear and do some painting (did I mention I'm into watercolours at the moment?) A creative and relaxing way to spend the evening, perhaps with a podcast or audiobook in the background. Hmm.
I could write a blog post. That would be fairly productive. Though I don't really feel like I have much to write at the moment. What else is there?
I could play some video games. I've been working my way through the latest Assassin's Creed installment and and hour with that would be fun. A chill bit of time before bed. But, then again...
I could watch some television. I have a few shows I've been working my way through. A less valuable use of time, but still relaxing after a long day. Sigh. I really should do something more productive though.
Instead, while I waver back and forth, I flip on the TV and load up YouTube. I'll just watch a five minute video while I try to motivate myself. Virtually, completely, a total waste of time.
Not motivated yet? Another? Another... another... another. Oh look, it's bed time. I've just spent the evening in zombie time.
i've ordered a paper journal
It's a fancy one. It's from one of those companies that makes high quality notebooks and watercolour paper.
How does this fit into a technology blog post? Or into a recovery blog post?
I see it like this: technology or tools that enable us to plan and organize our lives, our days, our motivations in a way that allows us to accomplish our goals may be almost as vital to success as the right running shoes, drinking enough water, or having a good social support network.
I get my runs done (well, right now my swimming laps done) because I timebox. Mentally, at least.
I set a goal.
I pick a time.
I fill that time with the planned activity to achieve the goal.
I'm going swimming on Saturday morning. That's when I'm going. That's when I'm planning on going. That's when my opportunity to go will be. That's when I need to go. If I don't go then, I'll sit on the couch and end up watching YouTube until the time evaporates into nothing.
I'll zombie time my Saturday morning.
And while this may seem like I have my days and motivations under control, really I've just applied this to my fitness and it's a lingering effect of having to be accountable to a running crew. We run on such and such an evening or morning, so we run. Now I've been swimming in those same time slots.
I haven't put the same sort of time boxing around my other bits of life. I haven't set thirty minutes aside for working through my scales and some music on my violin. I haven't put two hours aside on a Tuesday evening to paint something with my watercolours. I haven't given myself to kill ninety minutes on a Monday before bed enjoying a video game.
Instead, I do none of those things because I struggle to prioritize myself on the fly.
So, I've ordered a paper journal. A calendar with months and pages to do some kind of bullet journaling, time boxing, check list making effort.
People swear by such things to organize their lives.
I'll find out soon if I'm destined to be one of those people.
4 months ago
Having checked (and rechecked) the tracking information from the retailer's website it's become a near certainty that within the next 24 hours my new Garmin Fenix 6X is going to land on my doorstep in a neat little cardboard box.
If I'm counting right, this will be my fifth new GPS watch since taking up the sport (seriously) about 14 years ago.
Did I need to upgrade? My six year old Garmin 3X has been a trusty companion for a lot of years. It saw me through the NYC Marathon, a half dozen mini ultras, and countless thousand of training klicks.
And I get a solid three hours out of a battery charge now, so... yeah, it was time.
Probably. I mean, I could have sent it in an got a battery replacement. Or, realistically, I'm rarely running more than a couple hours at a stretch these days. And ... no, it's not buyers remorse, but these things are expensive.
As my finger was hovering over the purchase confirmation button in one browser window a few days ago, my other browser window was desperately googling for advice on "should I upgrade my Garmin?" There was plenty of posts extolling the virtues of all the new, shiny features that would come from even a model-to-model upgrade, let alone a half-decade multi-model leap. I mean, in the end it's about pace, time and distance, right, but who doesn't want a heart-rate sensor, built in Bluetooth music and wristwatch-based turn-by-turn navigation? After all, I've got run clubs to lead and adventures to surmount, right? Right?
I run with a guy who has never used more than a forty year old digital Timex. He couldn't tell you how far or how fast he runs, but he runs farther and faster and in circles around me, and he's got nearly thirty years on me to boot.
Technology, and in particular brand new technology, in and of itself doesn't necessarily make anyone a better runner.
What are you upgrading?
Technology is a means to gather data, react to metrics, and respond to results. Technology lets us measure aspects of ourselves, and better technology lets us do that in ways that are more responsive to the moment, in the space, and in less intrusive ways than ever before. My new watch is slightly lighter, has a slightly better display (I've become a most-time bespectacled glasses wearer in the intervening years) and lets me ditch that old heart rate strap for a wrist-based pulse meter. It's better in a few ways that really matter... and better in a few ways that are fluff.
What matters and what doesn't?
I won't brag about my great deal, but needless to say I "settled" for the previous model (on super sale) over the brand spanking new version 7 (still full price) which came out a few months ago. That decision was as much about features as it was about price. Apart from a few other minor upgrades, as far as I could tell the major tweak was a touchscreen on the newer version. I leaned back in my chair and recalled my last touchscreen Garmin a few models back, one of the nicer Forerunner models, and how much I loathed that watch in the winter. I run in sub-freezing temperatures for six months of the year and in those conditions, with cozy gloves keeping your fingertips warm, a touchscreen is essentially a button you can't use without numbing your nubs.
What really motivates you?
Some people care about this stuff, too. I admit it. Fully. Unequivocally. I'm a tech nerd. I like new toys, and new toys are a motivator for me. If you told me I had to run with a forty year old digital Timex for the rest of time I may still get out there and run, but I think I'd be a little sad about it. Having some new gear for my chosen sport makes me want to use that gear and push it to its limits. I wear my old Fenix swimming, cycling, walking, kayaking, and up the sides of mountains when I hike with my family. I track my steps and my daily activity. I enjoy the breadth of features, and new features (I hope) will fit into that puzzle of enjoyment and keep me active.
I write these words as I set out in the last week with a new and renewed determination to rebuild and refresh my fitness levels. I'm a couple months after a COVID infection and a couple years into the demoralizing, crushing effects of a global pandemic. New tech, for me at least, is one of the pillars of that big plan, and I'm lucky and privileged enough to have some money set aside to upgrade my experience and crank my personal motivation through the same.
I can't tell you if you should do the same, but I can say if you learn what drives you, what's important to you, and understand that yes, there are tools that can support and enhance the time and quality of your efforts to train, run, and be active, that answer will come pretty easily.
1 year ago
Having run for well over a decade in the ever changing seasons of the Canadian prairies I have fought many battles with the hardened warrior otherwise known as winter trail conditions.
Ankle-deep fresh snow. Ice-slickened asphalt. Road slop like oatmeal or worse, dirty slush.
It is only November yet already the paths have become an assortment of challenging terrain …
… except that back in the late summer I bought a pair of trail shoes.
They haven’t been a perfect winter shoe, but they have made tackling the traction obstacles a formidable challenge rather than an impassible barrier. Unlike my summer sneakers or even previous winter runners I’ve owned, there is a remarkable surefooted stability to be found even in deep snow and icy patches on the sidewalks that I’ve struggled to find elsewhere. I’m sold, and even pullover spikes or other traction offerings that I’ve used over the years don’t seem to fall into a comparable classification as having tested my trail shoes through the abrupt arrival of winter weather this past week.
So I ordered a second pair yesterday.
Kinda. Sorta. Almost.
The summer version, which I own, is a light and responsive shoe meant for muddy paths and navigating narrow gravel trails.
The winter version, that second-ish pair now en route to my house, is a waterproof, insulated version of the same shoe but with grippier soles designed to take on those cold and epic winter conditions and a warmer approach to footwear.
Ice and snow will become far less of an excuse this winter.
I mean, I say that now… ask me again when it’s dark, icy, and minus forty degrees outside this January.
1 year 2 months ago
Sunday Runday and with less than two weeks until my first in-person race in over a year and a half I found myself facing a morning run dilemma.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about new shoes.
Quite the opposite.
While on vacation in the mountains a few weeks ago I finally found a pair of trail shoes in my size and splurged. The next morning I broke them in with an (a previously blogged about) eight kilometer trail run up some steep incline and early morning terrain in the wilderness beauty of our National Park system, and then …
… well … that dilemma I mentioned a couple paragraphs back compounded itself: I haven’t run any trail since, and the shoes had been sitting by my front door looking more forlorn than the dog when she needs her morning walk, and that other thing I mentioned in my opening sentence about an upcoming trail race kept nagging in the back of my mind.
In two weeks I’m headed back out to the trails we visited last month for our little adventure with the wasps. Apparently the wasp situation has cooled alongside the weather, but neither of those things cooling off negates the fact that I’m signed up to run a roller-coaster single track trail half marathon quasi-ultra later this month.
And as of this morning I’d run a mere eight kilometers in that brand new pair and brand new style (to me) of shoes.
I tossed them into my backseat this morning on my way to meet my running crew and humbly suggested that we maybe, possibly, if anyone was interested run some trails as our Sunday route.
There were some hefty dark clouds lurking to the west and the forecast (though cloudy and dry as we left) was for some light drizzle after a good soaking overnight.
We decended into the river valley and into the rain-soaked single track weaving through the forests. The leaves are starting to yellow as the days shorten and fall creeps ever closer.
By the time we exited that first stretch, my new shoes were clumped with mud and each weighed about a kilogram heavier than when I had entered.
I was also dragging a small branch clinging to my heel, and I pulled off to the side of the path to clear the worst of it into the wet grass.
A bit further down along we turned upwards towards a short ascent and into a utility corridor between the highway and the neighbourhood where the ankle-deep grass was still sopping with last night’s rain.
Onward looped us into more single track and by the time we found our exit back into the asphalt of the nearby suburban streets not only were all our feet soaking wet and muddy, but the rains had truly arrived and would not let up again until we were well done the other half of our morning run.
Soaked. Dirty. Tired. Epic.
All for a pair of trail shoes…
…and, oh, of course, the mental confidence that goes along with logging another medium-length trial run using those shoes, breaking them in, trialing them out, and generally assuring myself of their fit and function leading into that upcoming race.