Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back on the bike

It has been about a year and a half off my bike. Last week, I decided to bike commute instead of driving. Hence the bike-specific Trek pack with back ventilation (holding work clothing). Had to look long and hard for my custom bicycling shoes, primary (Di Notte) and backup (Blackburn Flea) lighting. Yep, it has been so long I've forgotten where I stash my bike gear. Other fumbles were I had to use primary AA cells in my Di Notte headlight, my NiMh rechargeables were 6 hours away from being recharged. My Powercontrol head unit from the SRM powermeter was not taking a charge. I hate when I have to send that overpriced unit back to Colorado for servicing. Damn, have to do without data for this commute. Mind you, it's probably a blessing I don't see the numbers.

Temperatures were in the mid-90s to 100F (about 35C-38C). About 32 miles round-trip. Listened to Squeeze on my tiny new iPod Nano (6th generation) on the trip down. Showered at the gym and went to work.

However, by about 5pm, I was suddenly seized by what I thought was a mid-afternoon malaise. Downed two espressos from my Nespresso machine in my office. Headed out the door at 6. Suddenly I noticed I was crawling along in my small chainring. I diagnosed a delayed bonk. Stopped at a Circle-K, downed a 32oz gatorade, and resumed pedaling towards the foothills. But things didn't get better. In fact, they got quite a bit worse. I had to climb in my 34 x 26 gear on a moderate but long hill. I revised my diagnosis to be dehydration and electrolyte depletion.

That night, I threw up. Next day, I had an all day headache and high fever. Couldn't hold solid food. Lost a kilo.

I guess it was the Bicycling Gods way of punishing me for being off the bike so long. To be humbled on your own commute.

It's funny, I never expected to have problems completing the commute since I kept it simple and just spun, never encountering an aerobically-challenged moment during the commute. But I only had iced water, nothing to replace the electrolytes. Not a smart thing to do when it's still effectively summer, temperature-wise. Also having run 10K on the treadmill the previous evening probably didn't allow my muscles enough time to fully replenish its glycogen stores.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

iPod Nano 6g

There can be a manufactured silver lining in every cloud.

For example, last weekend, I misplaced my iPod Nano (4g: 4th generation) that I use to record my runs using the Nike+ sports kit. I'm also out of shape, read: can't run 10K under 45 minutes anymore, and need some retail therapy to jumpstart my training.

Coincidentally, last week Apple released the new 6th generation (6g) iPod Nano which advances on my now-lost 4g Nano in two distinct ways:
  1. It's much smaller and has a clip much like the previous generation Shuttle. It's square and is all touch screen. No more iPod iconic click/scroll wheel. Feels like half the size and weight of the previous (rectangular) Nano. Read: easier to carry on runs.

    (Incidentally, the Shuttle has never been Nike+ Sports kit compatible.)
  2. It's also compatible with the Polar Wearlink+ Heart Rate (HR) monitor strap. The 4g wasn't. (The 5th generation (5g) Nano was also compatible, but I skipped the 5g.)
The major downside of course is that I'm out a total of $266 after tax. For that, I got the base model 8GB Nano $149 plus the $29 Nike+ sports kit, plus the $70 for the Polar Wearlink+ strap.

(Incidentally, you need a very special Polar Wearlink+ strap that transmits on two separate frequencies 5 kHz and 2.4 GHz. Only one of the frequencies is used by the Nano (2.4 GHz) but it transmits on both simultaneously. Regular 5 kHz Polar HR monitors don't transmit on the frequency needed by the Nano. Yes, it's only the most expensive model that has the red Nike+ logo on the transmitter.)

I think the square shape is great and I'm all for minimalism. But of course, the overall effect is spoiled by having to insert that big white Nike+ dongle into the dock connector. (On later iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS onwards, the dongle is unnecessary.)

Another (post-purchase) downside I discovered over the 4g is that the 6g only displays the time elapsed during a Basic Run. The screen is nearly the same size, I wonder why they deleted the extra useful real-time information in the Nike+ application.

Unfortunately, to get to that other information being recorded, e.g. pace, distance and HR, it's necessary to be wearing earphones and to press the Sleep/Wake button to get a voice readout. Well, at least one can get the cute Heart logo and stats in the summary after End Workout.

My Nike+ account now also has that cute Heart displayed on runs that have recorded HR.

Unfortunately, recorded HR makes for some extremely weird-looking and virtually-impossible-to-interpret, totally physical-universe-defying run pace graphs.

Oh well. Two steps forward and one step back in functionality.