Friday, November 25, 2011

Sony Walkman MP3 Player Review And Dual Giveaway!!!

Yes, you read the title right.  I will be giving away 2 Sony Walkman (NWZ-W263) MP3 Players.  Merry Christmas from me to you!  See details toward the bottom of this post, but first I've got to tell you all about them (from a runner's perspective).

I'm a pretty basic guy, IMHO.  Aren't all guys the same ladies?  Eat, drink, sleep, (fart).  Repeat the next day.  Actually, what I mean by being basic is that I just want my mp3 player to work and do what it says it will do.  Let me preface those remarks.  I have been through a lot of mp3 players and headphones in my running non-career.  Expensive or cheap ones all seem to break in one way or another.  Every pair of corded headphones I can remember have developed a short where sound in one ear cuts in and out, and eventually out altogether.  Another problem I have with corded headphones is that I have to manage the cord both while running and while packing and unpacking them from my gym bag.  Cords tend to flap from side to side while running, and if you don't take care to pack them away after the workout in an orderly fashion, they become a hot tangled mess.  Annoying!!

My cord issues led me to research and try wireless headphones that use Bluetooth technology to communicate with a separate mp3 player or phone.  I preferred this system on the surface to dealing with a cord, but new problems arose.  First, batteries on both the mp3 player and the headphones needed to be charged after almost every workout since transmitting wireless signals take lots of juice.  I could live with that inconvenience, but where Bluetooth headphones really failed me was they broke fairly quickly.  I went through at least 3 different sets of Bluetooth headphones and none lasted more than 5 months.  That can get expensive at $50 - $80 a pop.  Not that I took bad care of them, but I sweat a lot and for an extended time on some of my workouts and that moisture would make it inside of the ear pieces where all the circuitry is and fry it over time.  I even bought headsets marketed as "Sport" and "moisture resistant".  The other half of this equation is needing a mp3 player with Bluetooth.  Not a big deal, but any mp3 player with this feature tends to be close to $200, and I went through a couple of those too for various reasons.

By necessity, I was on the lookout for a music solution that would work for my workouts.  One day a saw an ad with Meb Keflezighi and he was wearing these Sony Walkman headphones.  I had never heard of them before, but I could tell just by looking at them they had a lot of potential for me.  And they were only $50.  Back to the theme of being basic.  All these headphones do is sit in your ear and play MP3s. They do have basic controls like pause, next track, previous track, and volume.  Two things this amounts to is there is less to break, and less weight to carry around.

Go Meb!  If you can hear me.
To date, I have had my Sony mp3 player for 8 months.  All of the features still work great except for a LED light which is supposed to light when it's charging.  The main point I would like to make is that it is still playing tunes long after my other devices have failed thanks to its ability to handle sweat.

The neck band hugs the head so it is barely noticeable when
stretching or lifting weight while on your back. 
I have the previous model which is a
little different look (size).

So, I was pretty wordy in telling you how I was driven to the Sony Walkman because I think it's relevant in how it separates itself from the competition.  Now, I'll cut to the chase and shoot some bullets your way on my experience:

  • Like Timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking (sweat resistant).
  • No cord to get in way, or break, or tangle.
  • The over the ears, behind the head headband stays in place and hugs the back of your head so you can workout on your back without it getting in the way.
  • No display allows for longer battery life.
  • Light weight.  When I'm in the zone, I don't notice them.
  • Easy to use.
  • Decent price tag.

  • No fancy features like a touchscreen. (This could be considered a pro)
  • The rubber ear piece makes a good seal within the ear which is good for hearing the music, but not optimal for hearing background noise or having a conversation when music is paused. (Minor complaint)
  • No radio, no recorder, and no Bluetooth.  (Even less minor of a complaint)
Read or watch another detailed review at CNET.

Now for the details on the giveaway.  I took a long shot, kinda like all these soldiers asking celebrities to the Marine Corps Ball on youtube, and contacted Sony about providing me with a couple mp3 players to send out in conjunction with my review.  After several emails back and forth, they generously agreed to provide them to me with very few strings attached.  What I mean is that you don't have to go through a lot of trouble in order to put your name in the hat. You don't have to 'Like' a bunch of stuff on Facebook, and/or send out tweets (assuming you even have a twitter account).  What I would like everyone to do however is visit Sony's new running community.  There are lots of useful links there, and you have the option to create a profile along with Meb as a way to connect with more runners.

Once you've explored Sony's "Run" community, I offer you up to 3 chances to win Sony's newest W Series Walkman.  These are an upgrade to the pair I own.  They're smaller, have twice the memory (4 GB) and currently sell for $70 - $80 dollars.

Sony Walkman #1 :
  • Be a follower on my blog.
  • Leave me a comment and you will automatically be entered in the random drawing.
  • Optional - Do me a favor and mention this giveaway and link to it from your blog, and get a bonus entry.  (Let me know if you've done this)

Sony Walkman #2 :
  • I would like to give one of the mp3 players to a reader who could use it the most.
  • Be a follower on my blog.
  • Leave a comment telling me about your music misfortunes, or why a new mp3 player would complete you.  Please try to make it a work of nonfiction. :-)
  • I will pick a winner based on merit.
  • All non winners are automatically in the random drawing for the other Sony.

In summary, by telling me why you need a mp3 player and linking to my giveaway from your blog, you have 3 chances to win 1 of 2 Walkmans.  After consulting with my magic 8 ball and my astrologist, I am told the winners will be chosen on Tuesday December 6th, 2011, so hope to hear from you until then.   Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Importance of Being Flexible, Among Other Things

So, I just noticed that someone who Googled the query, "what causes a slower marathon than expected?" was linked to my post about my last underachiving marathon.  Thanks a lot Google for putting me at the top of that list.

Last week I was reminded of the importance of being flexible.  And I'm not talking about something out of the Kama Sutra, or turning the act of pooping into an ab workout.  No, I'm talking about forces of nature conspiring to keep me from hitting the pavement.

My most recent week of running started out great, much like the week before where I hit the 80 mile milestone.  Until Wednesday that is.  At 5:45am, I was 3 miles into my 15 mile run on my gym's indoor track when I got a page over the loudspeaker.  I was lucky to even hear my name being called because my gym has those cheap, old fashioned loudspeakers around the track that sound like someone yelling into a kazoo.  Turns out my wife Lora was on the phone and she needed me to come home stat since she woke up sick (strep throat) and we have 3 kids who have to have adult supervision.  And after my wife, I'm the closest thing to an adult in our family.  Honestly, I was a little upset/letdown at first because my run got cut way short, but I didn't let on.  In the big picture, this was the first time I got called home during a workout, and that includes the times Lora was pregnant.

Here's where the flexible part comes in.  I ended up making it home before anybody needed help, so I put in another 3 quick miles on the treadmill.  I could've put in more miles that day, but I was content to play Mr. Mom mixed in with a little Betty Crocker, and tack some miles on to the next day's run.

So Thursday, I planned on hitting the gym for another attempt at 15 miles.  Only one kink.  When my alarm went off, Lora was still sick  (who would have thunk antibiotics take more than a half day to get rid of strep throat).  Hence, no gym for me.  I must have a little OCD since I was a little frustrated getting taken out of my routine again.  Can you say Rain Man?  The good thing is we have the aforementioned treadmill and I hopped on it again for 6 miles where I had to stop and get our oldest off to the bus stop.  Then I came back and ran 9 more to get my 15 for the day.

Who still enters their age and weight when they climb on the treadmill?  As a computer programmer, I would love the chance to put some code into a treadmill that gives some feedback.  Someone enters in 24 years old and 106 pounds.  My mill could tell them their time would be better spent hitting some weights and eating something, or "Quit making everyone else look bad."  If somebody enters in an age of over 90, I won't even consider the weight, I'd have the treadmill put a little IM scrolling across the display, "You've put in your dues, you don't need to do this anymore.  Hope you can still read this."  Under the "Calories" column, I could blink the text, "Not enough" for all runners.  Finally, anyone who's been on the treadmill for 3 hours straight might get told to get a life, or that this treadmill will self destruct in 5 minutes.  How about, "Why don't you show this much stamina in other parts of your life?"  Hey, I resemble a few of those remarks.

What else could a treadmill tell a person?  Would anyone buy my treadmill?  I don't know, I'm just saying I've got ideas.

Now back to my point of being flexible...

Friday I'm happy to say was back to my normal routine, then BAM!  The weekend hit and it was all effed up again with schedule conflicts.  Surprisingly to me, the spell checker doesn't complain about the word "effed", huh.  Blogger must have sprung for the deluxe slang/urban dictionary.  I spent a little time stressing Friday night about how I was going to get my long run in:  Here's how my options played out:
  • Plan A was to wake up early Saturday and complete the long run in time to take my 4 year old to swim lessons at 11:00a.  Didn't happen.  Lora went out with her parents leaving me babysitting our 2 youngest.  
  • Plan B, wait until after lunch.  Run my long run outside.  Didn't happen.  The weather was nice except for the wind which was blowing 25 -35 mph with gusts over 40.  Running into that could be just 20 mph shy of the hurricane experience.  No thank you.  Besides, Lora wasn't back yet to watch the kiddies.  Next!
  • Plan C, run downstairs on the treadmill again making it the third time this week I 'got' to be flexible. Plan C it was.  

Looking back, I was shooting for another 80 mile week, but with all that happened, I can't complain about ending up with 78 thanks to being a little flexible.  That is still the second largest training week I've ever had.  Here's my recap:
12 miles total: 7 x 1 mi. intervals @ 6:45 avg., 3 mile tempo @ 7:30 pace.
6.74 miles in 20 minutes on stationary bike

15 mile recovery @ 9:00 avg.

6 mile recovery @ 9:00 avg.

15 mile treadmill tempo run @ 8:00 avg.

7 mile recovery @ 9:00 avg.

23 mile long run on treadmill @ 8:45 pace


Well, less than 3 weeks until I run in the Dallas White Rock Marathon.  I guess that means I need to start thinking about a taper.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Training 4 Dallas

The Dallas White Rock Marathon is in less than a month (Dec. 4th), and I've been trying to squeeze in a few more quality workouts before I have to taper.  And when I say quality, I mean quantity.  Sure, I've been doing some decent mile intervals and tempo runs on a regular basis, but I also set a mileage PR last week.  That's right, how does 80 miles sound?  Does that make me a running octogenarian?  Allow me break it down:

11 miles including 7 x 1 mile intervals @ 6:54 avg.
15 miles recovery @ 9:06 avg.
15 miles recovery @ 8:54 avg.
10 miles including 5 mile warmup, 5 mile tempo @ 7:30 avg. 
7 miles recovery @ 9:15 pace
22 miles @ 9:15 avg.

My previous weekly best was 77 miles set the first week of September.  Technically, I covered all 80 miles in 6 days since I like to rest sleep in on Sundays.  That and it's my day to pray to God I don't get injured and tear an important mucsle during my upcoming speed workouts.  (BTW, the preceding week was a 66 mile one as I was building back from an October 9th marathon).  I started off last week nicely with the intervals.  That left me tired Tuesday for the 15 miler.  It took about an hour of running before I felt warmed up.  I got in 3 or 4 good miles before I finished the run in glycogen depletion mode.  Wednesday's 15 was about the same way except I felt a little better and my pace was a little faster.  I was a bit disappointed with my 10 miles at the YMCA on Thursday, but only because that morning turned into social hour and I spent time talking instead of running.  Nonetheless,  I thought my heart rate looked pretty good during my tempo miles.  Saturday, I was in no shape to go as fast on my long run as usual, probably thanks to the aforementioned mileage accumulation.  However, I did run 22 instead of my usual 20.  I read on the internet last week where it was suggested to do your long run in the amount of time it would take to complete a marathon, only run fewer miles and go slower, and that is what I did.

My weight has been going the wrong way lately.  Halloween contributed to that, but I need to get some self control and eat healthier.  I thought the extra miles would help, but I guess they only gave me an excuse to eat more.  Having said all that, I'm only about 3 or 4 pounds above where I was a month ago so don't feel too sorry for me.

Just so you don't think I spent my whole week running...  Here are some photos of a few other activities I did over the course of last week:

Went trick-or-treating on Halloween.  My kids are the 3 on the left.
Don't tell them I've been enjoying their candy.

Saw an 80s hair band called "Tesla"  with some friends on Saturday night.
The garage band I'm in covers their song, "Modern Day Cowboy."

Any guesses what this monstrosity is?  It is the makings of a chicken
coop.  The wife and I have been working on it for months it seems.
Hope we can get it done before Winter sets in.   It is also the reason
I haven't been blogging as much lately.

Have a good week!