Sansa Clip+: The Shuffle Killer

Sometime in 2007 I purchased an MP3 player and started subscribing to Rhapsody’s subscription music service, Rhapsody To Go. The player was a Clix from iRiver and while it’s been fine, I’ve never been thrilled with it. It has a tendency to freeze, it’s clunky and recently its battery life seems to have grown shorter and shorter between recharges. Its most recent woe is a battery life indicator that always cheerfully says “full!” When you’re halfway through a three hour long run and the music dies, that’s a long 90 minutes running with useless earphones in your ears.

It was time to replace the Clix. Naturally, I figured I’d first check out what iRiver was making these days. But unfortunately the iRiver web site has gone from bad to worse. I wonder if they actually want people to buy their products. Since I couldn’t make sense of their product line I next took a look at Sansa’s players, which had always had a reputation for playing nicely with Rhapsody. I settled on the Clip+ player. For $64 I got:

  • 8 gigs of storage (that’s 6 gigs more than the Clix has)
  • Room for up to 32 gigs more thanks to the MicroSD card slot
  • 15 hours of battery life
  • An FM radio with more presets than I’ll ever use
  • A sturdy, built-in clip
  • Excellent sound quality
  • An easy-to-navigate menu system
  • On-the-fly playlist creation and removal of tracks
  • Seamless integration with Rhapsody, including its radio-like, musically themed “channels” (which never worked with the Clix)
  • No software drivers needed; it’s plug and play!

All this in a package that weighs about an ounce and is smaller than a matchbox.

This is not my hand. My fingers are not chubby.

This is not my hand. My fingers are not chubby.

Despite being a Mac user since 1988 (I still remember being awed by the computing power of the Mac Plus), and still using one for my personal machine, I’ve never owned an iPod. Maybe I’m mentally challenged, but I couldn’t figure out the clickwheel the one time I tried to use one. Plus, who wants to pay for every song? For $15 a month I can download and take with me any of around 2,000,000 songs. If I want to buy something, I can download the MP3s, oftentimes for less than what Apple is charging for them on iTunes.

I’d looked at the previous generation of the Clip, but the actual clip looked flimsy, as did the materials overall. But with the “+” edition, Sansa seems to have gotten things right. I wore it on a faster run on the track this morning and, unlike the Clix, which bounced around like a small brick, I often had trouble locating the player on my shorts.

If people are willing to wrest themselves from the Apple hegemony of iTunes, the Clip+ and Rhapsody To Go are an attractive prospect. Observe:

  • The Clip+ is cheaper than the 4GB Shuffle by about $10
  • It has a radio, a voice recorder, twice the storage (and up to 10x the storage if you spring for a MicroSD card)
  • It has a display screen; shouldn’t this be a basic feature?
  • No stupid white headphones

Be a rebel. Dump the iPod.

Mixes: 33 for 150

I’ve got a training plan for the next few months. Now all I need is music to make the longer runs a little less tedious. Here’s the first new playlist, which I’ll probably use for my midlength (12-15 miles) runs. It’s fairly uptempo but not the crazy, aggressive crap I listen to for the faster aerobic and tempo runs.

1. Paper Birds – The Slip

2. Airplane/Primitive – The Slip

3. Children Of December – The Slip

4. Clear Water – Anniemac

5. The Sun Smells Too Loud – Mogwai

6. Glasgow Mega-Snake – Mogwai

7. Special – Mew

8. Hawaii – Mew

9. Her Voice Is Beyond Her Years – Mew

10. Snow Brigade – Mew

11. Am I Wry? No – Mew

12. Black Hearts (On Fire) – Jet

13. (Drawing) Rings Around The World – Super Furry Animals

14. The Undefeated – Super Furry Animals

15. Slow Life – Super Furry Animals

16. Cath… – Death Cab For Cutie

17. New Killer Star – David Bowie

18. House Of Orion – Lukestar

19. Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire

20. Wrapped Up In Books – Belle and Sebastian

21. Everybody Come Down – The Delgados

22. Senses – La Rocca

23. Eyes While Open – La Rocca

24. Non Believer – La Rocca

25. My Lucky Day – Jason Falkner

26. I Live – Jason Falkner

27. Under the Milkyway – The Church

28. There, There – Radiohead

29. Jigsaw Falling Into Place – Radiohead

30. Pretty In Pink – The Psychedelic Furs

31. Beautiful People – Pet Shop Boys

32. Keys To Your Heart – The 101ers

33. Lola Stars and Stripes – The Stills

Listen on Rhapsody

Fun facts about a few of these:

#4 is by Annie McIntyre, who I grew up with and saw for the first time in a few decades when we went to Oregon in the summer.

#17 is just so Bowie. It’s newer, but evidence that, unlike a lot of his contemporaries, he hasn’t lost his talent.

#27 and #30 are there purely for nostalgia. I love both these tunes, primarily for the vocal.

#32 is Joe Strummer’s pre-Clash band. Their only hit.

Mixes: Roche Infestation

A few years ago I was working with a couple of women about my age and I was surprised to find that they’d never heard of The Roches, a three-sister folk group to whom I’ve been listening since someone played their debut album to me, to my delight and wonder, sometime in the early 80s. Noting my colleagues’ blank expressions as I insisted, “The Roches? Robert Fripp? C’mon…” I realized just how obscure The Roches actually are.

Their music is hard to describe, but its hallmark is soaring harmonies and a distinctly off-kilter sensibility. They are talented songwriters, exceptional singers and wholly original. Who else could write an eight-and-a-half-minute song extolling the virtues of a winter coat and somehow make it work?

I put together a Roches mix for my run this morning consisting entirely of my favorite recordings from their extensive ouvre. Over the years they’ve put out a wildly inconsistent set of albums, which has been frustrating. Some albums are just plain terrible. Others are okay, but marred by unwise production choices. I still think their eponymously titled debut (which Fripp produced and plays otherworldly guitar on) is their best, but I’d credit Can We Go Home Now and Speak as two other high points.

I’ve seen them perform at various points — once in Manhattan in the mid-1980s (I think it was The Bottom Line, but it may have been somewhere else) and then again later that decade on Staten Island at Snug Harbour Cultural Center. Both shows were great. Then, about 10 years ago, I went to see one of them, Suzzy, do a solo show at the church at the bottom of my street to promote her solo album, Holy Smokes. It was, frankly, depressing to see such a talented woman performing for $15 to a room of about 50 people. But perform she did and managed to singlehandedly bring to life songs that on record had required the vocal work of three. My favorite song of that set was “Home Away From Home,” which she managed masterfully with just one guitar and voice. I still think of that song as one of their masterpieces.

Anyway, here’s the playlist. If you’ve never heard of The Roches, start with the bold titles. They represent a pretty good cross-section of their sound. If you don’t like those, you won’t like any of them.

  1. This Feminine Position
  2. Keep on Doing What You Do / Jerks On The Loose
  3. Scorpion Lament
  4. Losing True
  5. Feeling is Mutual
  6. Nocturne
  7. Easy
  8. Person With a Past
  9. Cloud Dancing
  10. Big Nuthin’
  11. Speak
  12. Weeded Out
  13. Face Down At Folk City
  14. Love Radiates Around
  15. My Winter Coat
  16. Holidays
  17. Move
  18. Home Away From Home
  19. Hammond Song
  20. Mr. Sellack
  21. The Train
  22. Quitting Time

Mixes: Speedy (1 hour)

Lately I’ve gotten sick of the same old playlists or listening to albums with spotty quality. So I’ve made it a goal to put together at least one or two new music mixes a week to get me through summer/fall training.

Here’s the first one. This features some faster tracks, which I’ll use for anything tempo-y. This list provides exactly one hour of music. Heck, I can do anything for an hour, especially if I’ve got some good tunes playing in the background.

Speedy: 1 Hour

No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
Switch On – Paul Oakenfold
Problem Child – AC/DC
You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
The Silence Between Us – Bob Mould
Run Baby Run – Garbage
21st Century Breakdown – Green Day
Barracuda – Heart
Is It Any Wonder? – Keane
The Lovers Are Losing – Keane
Human – The Killers
Celebrity Skin – Hole
Same Old Drag – Apples in Stereo
The Laws Have Changed – The New Pornographers
Dress Like Your Mother – Sleeper
Cannonball – The Breeders

Winter Basebuilding: Week 9

09spr-base-09Just nine short weeks ago I was 80 pounds overweight, battling high blood pressure, impotence and halitosis — and look at me now!

Okay — none of that is true. But I was certainly not as fit as I am today. I was also a coaching ingenue, a wee runner wet behind the ears, a doe-eyed street urchin in a poorly state and desperately in need of guidance.

This morning I took my resting heart rate and — get out of town! — it was a mere 42. In most hospitals and doctor’s offices in this country, that would indicate a serious medical issue. Couple that with this morning’s blood pressure reading of 103 over 68 and I’d be declared legally dead in most American medical circles.

The last time I had a checkup, around three years ago, I’d just started racing. But after a few years of running, I already had award-winning cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. I’ve decided that I’ll go for another workup in two or three months, when I’ve got more strenuous training under my belt. Just to see how much more of a superwoman I’ve become.

Anyway, on to the week’s report. Like last week, the target was 90 miles, which I was just a bit shy of owing to a long run today that was a half mile short (I had a mild  brain fart while figuring out the route en route). I was trapped inside on the treadmill Monday through Friday. It was just too treacherous to try to run outside, and there was no way I’d be able to come close to the speedier times I needed to hit. So I suffered inside.

Things went pretty well overall. I managed 25 minutes at tempo-y pace on Tuesday, although it was a bit slower than I wanted. I think I was still tired from last Sunday’s long run opus. I took all the recovery runs nice and slow so I could put out a good effort on Friday. In contrast to Tuesday, Friday’s speedier bits felt too easy. But I suspect that’s because I was comparing the effort of running at a 7:00ish minute mile for 150 seconds to running at the same speed for 25 long minutes. Since the first few felt so easy, I ran the remaining ones 10-15 seconds faster. Because I am an overachiever.

I took Saturday’s recovery run outside and awoke this morning to more Nightmare in New England weather: yet more snow, coming down like gangbusters this morning. After employing every possible delay tactic, I managed to finally drag myself out the door at close to 10AM. Much later than I wanted to start, but I went to bed at midnight (since The Dark Knight was so freaking — and unnecessarily — long).

I had a bad feeling about the running path, so I drove up to Scarsdale, resigned to the prospect of running my 6ish mile residential loop multiple times. The first couple of miles sucked, frankly, because they hadn’t been plowed. This surprised me, since I was running on a major roadway. I had no traction and was putting out quite a bit of effort for a 9:30 pace. I decided I’d run the whole loop at least once. If it was going to be such arduous going for the whole way, I’d bag the remaining loops and finish up the remaining 14 at home on the treadmill.

Fortunately, other roads were salted and plowed. It was still slushy, icy going, but as the weather warmed up and the salters and plowers did their work, conditions improved, as did my pace. I ended up with 19.5 miles at an average pace of around 8:30, which really is not bad considering the crap I was running in.

It was tiring work, but I enjoyed it. My feet were wet and I was hungry enough to eat the steering wheel by the time I got back to the car, but I’m glad I made the effort to run this one outside. A bonus was running into Jonathan in White Plains as he did his own 16 mile penance today. He gave me a great compliment after we got home. He said he spotted me and thought, “Hey, there’s a real runner out here.” By that he meant I didn’t look like a hobby jogger. I had good form, a runner’s body and I was moving fast. Then he recognized me as the nice woman who provides hot tea and pancakes on Sundays and I can only hope that this was also a bonus for him.

My company on the run consisted of The Mamas & The Papas, Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach and Edvard Grieg’s Greatest Hits (really — that was the name of the album!). I forgot how well produced the TM&TP’s stuff is. Plus it was recorded way back before Auto-Tune started making everyone sound like a singing robot. Singers had to actually be able to sing properly; you know, “carry a tune”?

The Yo-Yo Ma Bach recording (it’s his famous 80s album of unaccompanied pieces) was good for about 20 minutes and then everything started to sound exactly the same, always a danger with anything Baroque. I found myself wondering if anyone ever actually listens to the entire 2-disc set. I moved on to the Romantic period and finished up with Grieg and, man, could that guy write a tune. It was perfect music for a wintry run and I knew I’d made the right choice when I ran by a mansion in Scarsdale with a huge Norwegian flag hanging over the entrance; in the hall of the mountain king, indeed.

Tomorrow kicks off the first week of training proper. It’s not terribly different than what I’ve been doing except now there are actual times/paces attached to the faster workouts. Squee!

Music for a long, fast run

When I’m faced with the prospect of having to suffer through a fast run that will take me in the neighborhood of three hours to complete, I look to my MP3 player for distraction. Nay, inspiration! And, since I have to run fast, podcasts and audiobooks don’t cut it. No, I need the loudest, most testosterone-fueled sonic bombast that I can get my hands on.

Here is what I listened to on this morning’s run:

1. The Thousand Names Of God – Motorhead
2. Anarchy In The U.K. – The Sex Pistols
3. God Save The Queen – The Sex Pistols
4. Holidays In The Sun – The Sex Pistols
5. Bodies – The Sex Pistols
6. No Feelings – The Sex Pistols
7. Liar! – The Sex Pistols
8. Problems – The Sex Pistols
9. Seventeen – The Sex Pistols
10. Submission – The Sex Pistols
11. Pretty Vacant – The Sex Pistols
12. New York – The Sex Pistols
13. EMI – The Sex Pistols
14. Bonzo Goes To Bitburg – The Ramones
15. Going Underground – The Jam
16. That’s Entertainment – The Jam
17. 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
18. Crown Of Thorns – Social Distortion
19. Cold Feelings – Social Distortion
20. When The Angels Sing – Social Distortion
21. I Was Wrong – Social Distortion
22. Ring Of Fire – Social Distortion
23. Soul Kitchen – X
24. White Girl (Single Mix) – X
25. Los Angeles – X
26. No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
27. The Bell And The Butterfly – Charlatans U.K.
28. Around The World / Harder Better Faster Stronger – Daft Punk
29. Superheroes / Human After All / Rock’n Roll – Daft Punk
30. Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
31. When I Grow Up – Garbage
32. Special – Garbage
33. Vow – Garbage
34. Celebrity Skin – Hole
35. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
36. North American Scum – LCD Soundsystem
37. That’s How People Grow Up – Morrissey
38. The Hand That Feeds – Nine Inch Nails
39. It’s My Life – No Doubt
40. Switch On – Paul Oakenfold
41. Think Tank – Public Image Ltd.
42. Dear Lover – Social Distortion
43. Untitled – Social Distortion
44. More Human Than Human – (Meet Bambi In The King’s Harem mix) – White Zombie
45. Problem Child – AC/DC
46. Get It Hot – AC/DC
47. Touch Too Much – AC/DC
48. Girls Got Rhythm – AC/DC
49. Highway To Hell – AC/DC
50. High Voltage – AC/DC
51. Back in Black – AC/DC
52. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

Lots of odd choices for a post-modern feminist like myself. But I guess that’s what makes me post modern.

I should add that “You Shook Me All Night Long” is my favorite running “power song.” I also hold the sincere opinion that it is one of the greatest musical recordings ever produced.

Fall Training: Week 8

Week one of my “build” period of basebuilding went off with a bang — and ended with a milestone: I ran just under 97 miles this week, which is the most I’ve run in a week. Ever.

There was a lot of variety this week, with no less than four quality sessions* including an experiment with a relatively unsung method for improving VO2 max (more below). I also did two harder workouts back to back on Tue/Wed, just to see how I’d feel later in the week.

I know this week’s cumulative mileage, combined with some harder workouts (and the back-to-back sessions), was enough to facilitate some adaptation because I had two incidences of the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) late in the week, back to back (surprise, surprise). This happened in the early days of hard training for my spring race, but it eventually went away, so I’m not worried about it. Unfortunately, it always seems to strike in the dead of the night, which totally disrupts my sleep cycle. It’s annoying, but I’m not annoyed enough to shift my harder runs to late in the day.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 11.8 miles easy pace with speed intervals on the track
  • Wednesday: 15.2 mile long run (steady pace)
  • Thursday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 10.1 miles easy pace with Billat surges (AM); 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.1 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 20 mile long run with 4 miles at marathon pace

Total mileage: 96.8 miles

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 9:10 – 10:33
  • Intervals: 6:46 – 7:02
  • Easy: 8:02 – 8:58
  • Long: 8:32
  • Marathon pace: 7:25

Although I’m much better acclimated to the heat and humidity (and it was bad early in the week), my reaction to it seems very inconsistent. For example, on Tuesday I really struggled with doing intervals (1200m), when the temp was 75 and the humidity 85%. I’d planned to do 4-5 at 4:55-5:10 each, but ended up doing 3, dropping the workout when I had legs of lead midway through the 4th. It was quite uncomfortable running in the heat, and a brisk wind of around 10mph on the backstretch was also a factor.

The combined heat and humidity was even worse on Wednesday (same temp, but 87% humidity), yet I managed to run an 8:32 pace over 15 miles (less than 24 hours after speedwork, no less), with no water stops. I’ve always been better at long running, but I was very surprised by how easy the run was, and even pleasant at times. It was so bad out that I could actually wring sweat out of my shirt when I got home.

On Friday I did an easy run over 10 miles and threw in something I’d like to experiment with: I call them “Billat surges” (maybe other people do too, but if they do I’m not aware of it). What are Billat surges? They are a series of surges of faster running at V02 max, broken up with recoveries of equal time length at 50% of V02 max. They are based on several studies by French researcher (and 1:18 half marathoner) Veronique Billat. Information here and here.

In my case, this worked out to running for 30 seconds at around 6:20 per mile pace, followed by 30 seconds at 9:30 pace. It’s a great idea, but unfortunately my execution was lousy. I attempted to do this along Pipeline Road, a long, unsidewalked stretch of road that runs between Scarsdale and Hartsdale train stations (and the only way to get from the south to the north paved pedestrian path). It was rush hour (which means lots of crazed SUV drivers who can’t be bothered to slow down and move over 12 inches to keep from killing me) plus there was construction going on, so it was pretty chaotic.

Also, I’ve discovered that the Garmin takes just about 30 seconds to figure out what pace you’re running, so it’s very difficult to know if you’re going too slow, too fast or just right. The result was a series of 12 on/offs at anywhere from 5:55 to 6:45 pace for the “on”s. Not exactly on target. I want to incorporate these workouts into fall race training, so I’ll probably end up going to the track and doing them there, where I can put down some sort of markers for distance and just use the watch as stopwatch.

The muscle soreness appeared at 3:00AM on Friday night and then again, like clockwork, at 3:00 AM again last night. So I’ve gotten around 11 hours of sleep between those two nights. And yet, despite that, I felt pretty good this morning. Good enough to do a 20 miler inside on the treadmill with miles 16 through 19 at a pace equivalent to a 3:15 marathon (7:27ish — nothing’s exact on the treadmill).

I started this training cycle two months ago at 3:18 paces and guessed that I could move down to 3:15 at this point. Now I’m thinking I should move down further, since my heart rate for the marathon pace miles was between 81-84%. Pretty low effort. So I’ll start training (at least inside, where it’s not insanely hot) at 3:12-3:13 paces for the next few weeks as I attempt to work my way down to 3:08 training paces for October.

My, how the mind wanders while running 20 miles inside. Over the years, when trapped in a tedious environment, I’ve made up a little mental game of thinking up names for nonexistent rock bands (here are three: Girl in Trouble, Shudder To Think and Gay Baby). I thought up a good one for a band consisting of runners today: Cardiac Creep.

To further fill the three hours of tedium in my little room of torture, I listened to a newish mix of mp3s while watching parts of various movies. If you’ve never combined random music as background to popular movies, it’s time you tried. You could probably skip the next Whitney Biennial because you will hit on something approaching art, since wildly incongruous pairings of musical and cinematic artistic expression can result. Some of the odd (and, I suppose, ironic) pairings this morning included:

  • “Let The Good Times Roll” (The Cars) playing behind a scene from “Cape Fear” (the remake) in which Robert DeNiro takes a chunk out of poor Ileana Douglas‘ cheek with his bare teeth.
  • “More Human Than Human” (White Zombie) playing behind a scene of Edward Norton getting the crap beaten out of him in “Fight Club”.
  • “Highway To Hell” (AC/DC) playing behind a scene of Molly Ringwald sewing what looks like a pink potato sack prom frock in “Pretty In Pink”.

What else is there to say? I’m a strange person.

Coming up in Fall Training Week 9: I hold the pace at 97 miles, but with a little less intensity. I’ll do another attempt at the Billat surges, another set of hill repeats, and a little more marathon pace running. All capped by the first 22 miler in about four months. This is assuming my legs don’t explode in the middle of the night first.

*Probably too many. But, hey, I’m excited.

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