I am traveling this week. My journeys started in San Jose last weekend, then Portland for two days, then a red eye back to Chicago and Madison, five hours in office and then, off to London. I slept most of seven hours to London and now, ensconced in my room, I am about to channel Robert Mitchum ( Old Heavy Lids, allusion to fatigue, stay with me folks- I am the one traveling).
Before I collapse, two things-one, I wrote two columns on Nike Innovation Summit this week, which was quite cool. Apparently, spell check was not working or my brain was on hold, but I used the term hosed, instead of hosted. It has been corrected and my apologies. I have not used the term, “hosed” since I went to a Doobie Brothers show in 1977 in Chateau Liberte up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Look, I was wearing Birkenstocks, after a long run in LD 1000s, and my VW bus ran out of gas. I had twelve bucks, and the show was the Doobies, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks and perhaps Maria Muldar. Show cost ten bucks, bought two bucks of gas, drove in neutral down from the Santa Cruz Mountains to San Jose (kids, don’t try this at home, first the gas cost $4 a gallon and any good concert is $200 a ticket now). Sorry for the miscues.
Second, in less than 48 hours, I have tried the Nike sportsband in Portland, in Chicago Airport and in London, and very much like it. Here is are my notes:
So, as we have spoken about in the past, I found the Nike plus idea pretty interesting, and felt that it would bring in folks that were not primarily interested in running, but found music as an opiate to get them through the running experience. That is fine with me…
Any of us who have run, or walked long ( try 8 hours baby), know that endurance sports is all about the opiates. Well, kind of, endorphins are the disco biscuits of the human body and give you this mellow, my mitochondria are in better shape than yours after a long run or walk.
Music, which a) I love, b) am listening to as I write this ( theme from Shaft, can not get over the wahwah in the guitar, plus the lead guitarist has a fashionable crocheted (fashionable for 1971)
hat-yes, friends, I have the bootleg video too), can run through ones mind without a Nano. My best long runs were accompanies by Steely Dan’s Katy Lied, and there was no Nano in sight.
However, there are close to two million eathlings who think differently and Nike has been pretty pleased with the community that they have going. The Nike plus website also makes the experience very inviting as well.
On April 10 (see, I did respect the embargo), the Nike plus experience ( for music, think we need perhaps a little Quicksilver Messenger Service, “California Sunshine”) has now gone totally Zen Master. Introducing the Nike sports band, where one will hear the sound of…. nothing…one hand clapping…. a foot going over a log in the woods….
and this, is good.
The Nike sports band looks like, well, in modern parlance, is a nicely designed timing device, black on the top and orange on the bottom. The watch/timing part pulls off the watch band and can be inserted into your closest USB port. It is fitness jewelry, but with a purpose, not just that bling bling thing ( I have watched one episode of FlaVR Flave, and nearly moved to Kazakhstan).
The Nike sportsband communicates with the Nike plus transponder in ones’ shoe. For $59 bucks, kids, you can purchase the sportsband plus a transponder and place it in a Nike plus shoe.
The sportsband is so, clean, so intuitive. First, one presses the button on top of the USB device for three seconds. The screen says WALK. One walks and then presses same switch again for three seconds, and the the chronograph begins working.
There is a toggle switch under the main face. The user can find pace, calories burnt, miles for day, total miles for week, average workout pace. The Nike sportsband holds up to sixteen hours of workouts.
After the workout, one sits next to his computer or her computer (sincere apologies for the 66 percent of new runners who are women), takes the USB device from watch band and inserts into open USB device on side of computer ( My preference, anything Apple, way to truth and enlightenment).
So, here are my notes:
Portland, Oregon, April 8, 2008. 5.30 PM. Just stopped raining, took a walk around Westin hotel lobby, successfully got the sportband working. Took walk down SW Morrison, and, guess what? Total Luddite moi did not mess up the sportsband! It a) kept time, b) showed how slow I was walking and c) showed how I worked off one bowl of Captain Crunch with Crunchberries (sorry, irrelevant allusion to food porn cereal from 70s). I pressed END at end of workout, by pushing the main button ( there are two, a button on the face and toggle underneath). My first walk was just under 31 minutes.
Chicago O’Hare Airport, April 9, 2008, 6.30 PM. Just got off flight from Madison, Wisconsin where I a) worked in office for five hours in Fort Atkinson, b) observed the fruit cellar in my house with six inches of water and decided to order a sump pump from Mark the Plumber instead of starting a trout pond, c) spent a few hours with son, Adam and his girl, Samantha, who provide me most of the humor in my life. Pressed the top button on my Nike sportsband and it said WALK, pressed it again and my walking tour of OHare began. First from Gate F 10 to Gate C10, and then, 64 minutes of walking within fifty meters of my bag, so as not to make anyone think I was leaving an overstuffed business bag for nefarious reasons. Walk was nice, and at end, pressed same button on top of said sportsban. It noted END and I saved the workout to upload when I reached London.
Thursday, April 10, 2008. London, 11.30 PM local time, London (5.30 pm Fort Atkinson time). Emailed Victor Sailer, the intrepid photographer for Running Network magazines and websites and I inquired if he would like to get in a walk. We crossed the Tower Bridge at about 9 pm and headed down the walk way. It was a beautiful night in London. About 40 degrees and few clouds. Victah was decked out in sweats and I was in my plaid Bermuda shorts, Helsinki shirt and Vomero 3s. We caught up, and I checked my sportband and ..it worked! Our walk was just under 39:30.
When I returned to my room, I uploaded to Nikeplus.com and …it worked!
All in all, my experience with most modern technology, and culture can be described as, well, anxious. I am a fifteenth century man thrust upon a twenty-first century world. I believe in the ability of the human race to cure most ills, however, I
I believe now, that Nike has taken a holistic approach to its Nike plus program. First, they have developed three superb shoes in the Nike plus range-paramount, because Nike is a footwear company first. Secondly, the Nike sportsband allows all of us who see our hour a day, half hour a day as our, to use modern day street barker Jon Stewart’s description, ” a moment tof Zen.” Thirdly, now, with the Nike sportsband, Nike has answered the queries about how to make running more palatable for the newbies and also keep the purity of the experience for the already converted.
We walk, we run, we jump, we throw, because we need to. The natural man (remember Jean Jaques Rousseau? ) or women needs to find a physical outlet to modern life. Heroin is just too expensive and a waste of good brain matter. So, running, or walking and having an experience with one’s natural surroundings, be it a walk on the Thames walkway in London, the Rock River in Fort Atkinson, or the treadmill at Eddy’s House of Pain cures modern ills.
For the folks who do not need music, do not want music or someone saying, ” Nice run!”, the Nike sportsband is a great vehicle to reaching the Nike plus community and keeping track of one’s miles, calories and geek stuff.
In this day and age, our aerobic daily high is one of the few things we can control in life. Kung Fu was right, little grasshopper ( again, David Carradine, in the early 70s, was this martial arts fighting, Buddhist monk who traversed the dusty, soulless and bleak West, helping the good guys. He had flashbacks as his Master taught him the Eightfold Path)–control is an illusion. However, aerobic lifers know that their running and walking is their Zen moment, their endorphin high, and part of the joy, part of the good feeling is achieved by chronicling one’s daily runs or walks. The Nike sportsband allows the geeks to check out Nikeplus.com and not feel dirty. They are chronicling their daily runs or walks and keeping the silence of the air moving by their ears, or staying open to the sounds of the first Blue Jay of the spring. Sometimes, dear grasshopper, technology can give you simple joy. The Nike sportsband is that purveyor of simple joy.
( Note: Special thanks to JC Prieto and the Nike Communications Department, who flew us in and covered our hotel. My review of the products and the innovation summit was done because a) it is news worthy and b) I believe our readers are interested.
Also, thanks to the team at Nike Sports Research Lab, espcially Jeri Botsford, who has always kept me up to date on pertinent research. And thanks to Kevin Paulk, a real runner, who, like most of the real footwear designers at various companies around the globe, love the sport first and do their best to make real running shoes. His enthusiasm and his honesty are refreshing.)