Saturday, July 19, 2008

iPod Therefore iRan

So one of my most trusted advisors upgraded from her iPod Shuffle and strongly suggested I take it, as it might be the answer for my recent non-motivation-to-run problems. I was skeptical for three reasons:

1. Inconsistent Mastering. That is, that songs taken from different albums and different artists would be at different volumes and listening to iPod mixes would be a frustrating exercise in the constant need for volume control.

2. Battery Life. Or lack thereof. I could be on a run and the thing would die and then where would I be?

3. Poor Sound Quality. I have listened to CDs for so long (and before that LPs), both of which, when they are done right, leave me with the feeling that I am actually listening to the music as the artist intended. I have not really listened to a lot of mp3s.

But as I loaded it up (which was quite easy – I should have known, it being Mac-based and all) with the songs that have been going through my head recently I got excited about it. I loaded it on a Thursday and took it out Friday (yesterday) morning.

The first, a capella notes of Paul McCartney's "Flying to My Home", an underrated, underheard Flowers in the Dirt B-side, evoked the times during and after college when I would listen to that on my walkman (that's on a cassette single, kids) when I would fly to visit my parents where I lived during high school. Pretty sweet and the stereo separation and the fact that it was right in my ears and that no one else could hear it was all sort of fun and special in a way. It was like my neighborhood and I suddenly became a movie and had a soundtrack.

I started running to that and two other McCartney Flowers-era B-sides, then R.E.M.'s new Live in London 9 song EP came on. It was significantly quieter than the McCartney tracks so I pulled the iPod out of my shirt pocket for the first time, annoyed and thinking my worst fears were coming true. (Well, my worst fear was that I would get distracted and hit by a car. But I think the earphones actually make me more vigilant, if that's possible. Anyway…) I turned it up but then after three songs it stopped dead with a big pop. Stee-rike Two!

I shut it off and back on and when I pressed play it had jumped to Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze". This was way down the playlist, but I didn't feel like monkeying around with it and just let it go. It was part of the third playlist segment, "Mellow & Catchy" featuring "Precious & Few", "Angel of the Morning", "Both Sides Now", etc. I intentionally named it "Mellow & Catchy" because it sounds a little like a disease. A disease where you can't stop singing "I've looked at clouds from both sides now..." A disease which I've passed along to my wife a couple times in the last few months. "Precious and few are the moments we two can share..." These are songs I can now look back on fondly, even nostalgically, because I do not work as a bank teller anymore and am not subjected to them two and sometimes three times a day.

I had finished the main challenge hill and was coming down the street that my house is on, about a half mile to go. It was a hard run, because I hadn't really exercised much lately. I was getting a slight runner's high and a song came on I didn't immediately recognize. It was all about scaling the mountains in front of us and then…"Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong…where the eagles fly…" and I suddenly GOT IT! I understood why Chazz Vader posts lyrics from songs to which he works out.

I felt as though I was doing something impossibly heroic. I could have cried. I kind of did. The combination of the workout and the music was incredible. Because I am such a funny guy, I had put "We Belong" right after "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong". This second 80s hit in a row continued the heroic feeling seamlessly.

I finished with a strong, powerful sprint and then the next logical song came on. "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong"…"We Belong"…wait for it…"Longer". Ha ha! Get it? Yeah. It was a good cool down as I came in to my house to those I have loved "longer than there've been fishes in the heavens" or whatever it is.

It was so great I went out and did it again today, although I made more of an effort to hear the rest of the R.E.M. segment after it stopped dead again in the same place. I'll have to see if I can fix that.

Certain songs, I am finding, are good for running and some are not. I can see myself continuing to experiment and eventually programming a mix that would cause me to whip through my run effortlessly. I can not wait to get back out there again, but I'll probably take tomorrow off to rest my 36 year old knees, who complained a bit today when we started our second day in a row.

With the iPod, I anticipate no further problems (barring injury of course) with keeping up at least an M-W-F schedule of running. I'm going to change the chart on my wall from weight to exercise – just an E in a box for a day I exercised, a P in a box for a day I exercised on the previous day, a W in a box for a weekend (which I have off if I want because I said so), and an L in a box for a day on which I was lazy and did not meet any of those other three criteria. Sweet.

Thanks to my trusted advisor who gave me the iPod and helped me set it up. I get it now. It is really fun. Oh, and the toe? Fine. No pain, good sprints. Injury over.


Lilpudn said...

Maybe this ipod knows what songs might work out best for certain parts of a run so it stopped and then started where it wanted to start.

More likely you may need to be forgiving of this first generation shuffle. It's been jostled on hundreds of runs and walks. It's been drenched with sweat and with rain. The couple times it got completely soaked it stopped running completely and had to be plugged in to the turned on computer for 3 days before it dried out and started running again.

When you think that it's just a teeny computer it's amazing to me that it still works at all.

By the way, to restart the playlist at the beginning just press the middle circle 3 times quickly. At least I think that's what you do, try it. Apple still has the manual online if you get curious about how to use it.

Memphis Evans said...

That did seem pretty miraculous the way those two very inspirational songs came up right at the right time. I'm trying out some Steve Winwood now. I'm going to try to find a way to post my evolving playlist on the side of my blog here. Wish me luck.