Monday, September 3, 2007

I swear I am not being paid by Nike! (although I should be...)

So FINALLY I have my new running shoes... a little late in the game probably, but I think I will be OK. I've selected the Nike Air Zoom Vomero+2. No surprise I picked Nike... I mean, all these free Nike runs are just a big marketing push to promote their running shoes. You're encouraged to take advantage of the free shoe trials so during last year's training runs, I ran in both their Pegasus and Percept shoes - they both have good cushioning and are designed for neutral feet.

So this year, I planned to get one of those but I wanted one that would be Nike+ compatible, meaning they have a built-in socket in the sole of the left sneaker for the Nike+ sensor that would then communicate with your iPod nano.

I sort of had a good idea of the kind of shoe I needed, but just to be sure, I got a proper fitting at a local running store, Running Revolution in Campbell. They checked my arches and then videotaped my feet from behind while I ran outside down their shopping strip. My feet didn't really pronate (turn in) so I was good to go with a neutral, cushioning shoe.

I first bought the Air Pegasus+2007 which is a decent deal at $85. My normal shoe size is 6 1/2 so I bought that first but then I decided it was a little too snug so I exchanged that for a 7. But I don't know... it still didn't feel right and it didn't have the same form factor as my previous Adidas and Asics running shoes. So that's when I switched over to the Vomeros. I guess it's little bit more of a higher end cushioning shoe with the higher price tag of $120. It felt more comfortable and it got a good review in my recent Runners World magazine. Plus I found out it's actually the newer version of last year's Percept (there actually isn't an older Vomero) so I knew it would be a good match for me. But I made the same mistake of getting too small of a size so I had to exchange it for a 7 again. Problem is that this shoe is sold out everywhere so I had to deal with a lot of shipping time...

Anyway, after purchasing and returning three pairs of running shoes, I finally got my winners for this season. Even though I just received my personal pair this weekend, I had been training with them anyway during the shoe trials so I know they work well during the long distances. I just need to break in my new ones now. Sometimes I think I could maybe have gone with a 7 1/2 since they don't feel that big when you're actually running but I don't have any more time to putz around and the 7's still feel pretty good.

On to my second Nike purchase - the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. I actually bought this a long time ago, probably with the first Pegasus sneakers, just haven't used it. I took it out for a run on the treadmill to test it out and it gave me really bad data... I was jogging at a really slow pace, maybe 12:00 min/mi, and it was telling me that I was doing 9:30 min/mi! I tried calibrating it on the treadmill, but it still gave me bogus numbers. I was so disappointed... especially since I had been waiting to get these Nike+ compatible sneakers. I talked to some of the other runners on the Nike runs that used the kit and I learned they calibrated theirs on a track since your stride is probably different on a treadmill.

So this weekend, I finally took it to the Campbell track on my way up to the Nike Danville run and got it calibrated. It's easy to do - you set your iPod for a 400m run and then run one lap around the track, being careful to hit the buttons exactly at the beginning and end of the 400m loop. And I'm happy to say that the thing actually works!!! It was definitely accurate with the mile markers on my training run and the pace readings were the same as what other runners were getting. Not only that, the numbers it gave for "calories burned" pretty much matched exactly the ones on my Polar watch (which uses my heart rate to calculate).

It's a pretty cool tool. You have a sensor in your shoe and then a small receiver that connects to the base of your nano. The screen will actually display your pace and distance completed. Not only that, there's a voice that will speak and let you know your distance and pace. There's different settings you can use and it doesn't really bother me at all. When I did my 6 mi run on Sunday, I just selected "Basic Workout" mode, so it only spoke once around the 20 min mark and told me my pace and how many miles I've run. Today, I selected "Distance" mode for a 4 mile run so it let me know every time I completed 1, 2, and 3 miles (but didn't mention my pace) and then when I had 400m left - it would give me updates every 100m and then "congratulated" me when I finished the 4 miles. There's also another feature called "Power Song" where you pick your song which it would then play anytime you hit the center button.

And there's more! You then hook it up to your computer and then when you visit the nikeplus site, it will automatically read your data and store it for you. Here's a screen shot listing all my stored runs so far:

And then you can select a specific run and get more details:

There's other things you can do, but I still need to explore all that. I definitely recommend the kit if you already have a nano. It's only $29! And you don't necessarily need a Nike+ compatible running shoe. I've seen runners stick the sensor in the laces of their shoes and I think they also sell little pouches as well that you can lace up. It may not be as accurate, but I'm sure it's accurate enough.

And that ends the Nike endorsement for today... (actually, I may have a couple of other comments, but I'll save those for a separate post.)

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