For my birthday last week I received two gifts that have considerably changed my life. The first is an iPod nano which I will have to write more on later and the second is a pair of Nike sneakers with two Nike/iPod pieces (one for the sneakers and one for the iPod). I'm not quite sure what this piece is called that plugs into my iPod, but it connects to an electronic device in my sneakers that tells my iPod (and then later my computer, my online Nike account and who knows whom else) the miles I have run in a particular workout, the time it took, the pace and some other important things about my workout. When I go online to my Nike account I can view the pace per mile, view various graphs that display the course of my run and where my lags were, be reminded of which music I chose to listen to and compare all of my runs to see best times, longest distances, et cetera. The result is a near obsession of improving with every run. I have had this Nike component less than a week. Already I have run with this thing three times representing 12.47 miles and averaging 8'27" per mile. The last run's mile pace was 8'15". At first glance it might seem like a healthy tool to encourage my running and to help me improve. At second glance I see it for what it is--an obsession. The rigor and energy devoted to my workouts is feeling more and more like Olympic training and less and less like the casual jogs used to keep me fit and clear my head.
There is a woman in my iPod who gives me status updates as I run and then congratulates me when I finish. I consider her my personal coach and disappointing her would be unfair. After all she has stuck with me. Been there at every turn and step. She believes in me. The best I can do is run faster and faster with every workout. I imagine she is sitting beside me as we pour over the post-run data. Analyzing each mile, wondering if a better playlist might increase my speed and ultimately committing to a better run next time. Where is this going? If I don't get the gold in the next Olympic games, she and I are going to be sorely disappointed. It is what we are working for. What we expect.
The strange thing is that I have never been this competitive or driven even when I was running competitive high school track, doing triathlons in my mid-twenties, or even when I run the occasional road race. I have found a partner in this strange device. A plastic, electronic piece and some software that has pushed me harder than any teacher, coach, friend or running buddy. And it never says, "work harder" or "run faster." All it does is simply tell me what I have done. I fill in the rest.
I don’t know how much faster I can go. And I’m not sure what will make me ease up on my training regimen. Stay tuned…