Sony Walkman W-Series Review and Giveaway

When I started running, I had one of those brick Walkman tape recorders with the big foamy yellow headphones that covered my ears. When I was a freshman in high school, that thing kept me company as I walked the 2 mile trip home while listening to tapes one and two of The Wall over and over (no wonder I'm so messed up). I tried running with it and I would attach the belt clip to my shorts which would eventually be dragging around my knees, so that's where that trend started. The tape player turned into the slimmer and more compact CD player, which turned into the iPod which has gotten smaller and more convenient over the years. The one thing that has always bugged me about running with any of these devices are the wires that inevitably get tangled around my neck, arms, and legs. It doesn't matter where I put the player, and I try running the wires through various routes under and around clothing, through homemade holes in shirts, hats, and miscellaneous orifices, the wires always find a way to get tangled up. There are math geniuses that are currently studying this problem (seriously), but in the meantime, Sony has developed a simple solution, and I have come full circle back to the Walkman.

Sony Walkman W-Series Mp3 Player
If you start a discussion among runners about running with headphones, be prepared for some strong opinions. You'd think that you started a discussion on abortion, gun control, or Mitt Romney's hair. This is usually a black and white issue with most runners; some can't run without music, and others despise the existence of earbuds. It is an issue where I am a solid and distinct grey.

I rarely use headphones. When I'm on the trail I like to tune in to my surroundings, not to mention that I am scared of rattlesnakes and mountain lions and I'd rather listen to what is rustling in the bushes than the sweet vocal stylings of The Dan Band. I also like to tune into my running, making sure that I am treading softly and that my breath is controlled. It is rare that running bores me and I usually find something to think about on the run; that's kind of why I'm out there in the first place.

On the other hand, there is a performance benefit to running with music, and if you don't believe me, ask Roger Bannister. There is no way he would have broken the 4 minute mile barrier if it weren't for Master of Puppets blaring through his headphones. Treadmill running is another exception. I simply can't run to the soft 80s mix that wafts lightly through the speakers of the local Y. Robert Palmer, seriously? Did I write that I don't get bored while running? I need to change that. Sometimes on runs over 6 or 7 hours, I start to get a little bored, and having some music or a good podcast has helped me through the Anza Borrego Desert, across the Grand Canyon, and over the Canadian Rockies.

I have been testing the Sony Walkman W-Series over the last few weeks and while I don't use it for every run, I have found that it will be very useful when I need to run on the treadmill and will definitely come in handy next year when I try to tackle some longer races.

What I like:

No wires, except for the wire goes around the back of the neck that connects the two earpieces.

I forget I'm wearing it.

It makes me look like Lobot, and I can pretend I'm doing chores for Lando Calrissian.

It's waterproof, so I can listen to Zeppelin's Rain Song while running in the rain.

The unit I tested is the Meb Keflezighi version, and while it won't make you run like Meb, it comes pre-loaded with running tips from the swift American-Eritrean.

It has an 8-hour battery life, which means I will only have to listen to Jess Downer for about 5 hours when we do the Zion Traverse next year.

It has 2 Gigs of storage, so it holds a lot of songs. At first I loaded it to capacity with a couple hundred songs and dozens of podcasts, but then I couldn't really find what I wanted to listen to. Then I decided to load it with enough songs for a long run and one or two podcasts from and it was a much better running with music experience.

The headphones stay in my ears. This is huge for me because I've never been able to keep earbuds in my ears while running and I'm constantly fidgeting with them. I have had no trouble with that when using the Sony Walkman; must be the no wire effect.

What I'm not crazy about:

The controls. This is a trade-off because the main unit is in your ear rather than clipped onto some part of clothing, and the buttons are small. I'm sure that the more I use it, the more I'll get used to the controls.

It looks like a Bluetooth earpiece, and I've always found those kind of lame. Actually, it looks like two Bluetooth earpieces, one in each ear. If one Bluetooth is lame, a Bluetooth in each ear is kind of badass because you know that guy is way past the point of caring what other people think, so never mind, the look is one of the things I like about the Walkman W-Series.

The last thing is minor, and that is that it has separate software to transfer music to the unit once it is plugged into the computer. It's actually really easy to drag and drop music from iTunes to the unit, I would just prefer it loaded up in iTunes and I could manage the playlist from there.

Sony provided me with two units, one to test, load my music on, and sweat all over, and another which is brand spanking new in the box. I'll give away one of these units, you can chose which one you want.

There are two ways to enter the giveaway (double your chances by doing both):
  1. Like my new page on The Facebook (Sean Parker was totally wrong about dropping the "The.” The Facebook could have been huge). To like it, go here and press "Like," or just press "Like" on the right side of this page. If you were one of the early adopters and already like my page, then thank you, you are already entered.
  2. Want an additional entry? Open up to me (it’s okay, this is a no-judgement zone, stupid) and let me know in the comments section below (not on The Facebook, Grandma, but in the comments below) what is your favorite song to run to. The more embarrassing, the better. Mine is by The Roots, which isn't that embarrassing. Well, it's The Roots on Yo Gabba Gabba singning "Lovely, Love My Family." I love this song and it has gotten me through some low points in races. I'm proud to say that I love Yo Gabba Gabba, it's just like dropping acid without taking drugs. My wife really likes Muno, but I'm not sure why. So, please share your favorite running song in the comments section below.
You can also tweet, post on your blog, and share on The Facebook, but that wont get you more entries because that gets more complicated, and I just can't handle any more options, but I appreciate the good will and it will be good contest karma.

I'll pick a winner next week. Thanks for reading.

Click here for more information about the Sony Walkman W-Series Mp3 player.
Click here for the Sony running community on (including free training plans).

King of the Hill Half Marathon -- Race Report

The King of the Hill half marathon at El Capitan nearly broke me. I guess it was a beautifully rugged course, but in reality, I wasn't really feeling up to soaking in the view. The trail was steep, both up and down, and much hiking was done on the day. Towards the end, I couldn't really muster up more than a slow jog on anything except the few portions of the race that were downhill, and even the downhills were brutal and not very runnable.

The race started with ten burpees, then each aid station on the way to El Capitan peak had some type of exercise that you were required to do before going on. At one, it was mountain climbers, and at another it was tuck jumps and starbursts. It was a hot day and towards the end I was seeing stars. I remember finishing, walking to the shade and sitting on the top rail of a fence, swaying forward and backward and thinking I should probably not be sitting up there, but too tired to do anything about it. I eventually summoned the strength to down a couple of barley-based recovery drinks and felt better almost immediately.

I finished 4th in the under 40 "whipper-snapper" division in 2:10. I'm not sure of the overall placing, maybe 7th.

It was grueling in the true sense of the word, but I wouldn't expect anything less from race director Joe Decker (of Gut Check Fitness). Driving away from the race, I swore to myself that I'd never do that one again, but I hear they're going to be putting on a full marathon early next year.

That might be fun.

The turnaround point at the summit
Some boulder-scrambling towards the halfway point

I think I ran that first 20 minutes and the last 30 minutes

Girls on the Run

When I first heard about Girls on the Run, I got really excited. I figured it was a running program that would teach girls how to run faster. My daughter has been trying to make the track team and I figured that the Girls on the Run program would help in her running development.

When I heard they were looking for coaches in our area, I asked my wife if she would be interested in coaching my daughter and a few other girls at the elementary school. I figured that the girls would relate more to my wife than me because she is female and I'm not, plus she has a good competitive running background. She needed a couple of assistant coaches, so I signed up for the job.

I expected to help teach the girls about proper stretching, good form, and even give them a few tips on getting faster and maybe even some cutthroat racing strategies. What I didn't realize at the time was that this wasn't really a running program, this was a place where girls could form bonds, learn about how to communicate with others, how to be a good listener, how to be a better friend, how to stand up for your values, and how to make good choices. Most importantly, the Girls on the Run program provides the girls a safe place to be girls, to have fun, and to be themselves without the fear of being judged or teased.

The girls do run, and at the end of the program, we will have all of them in shape to run a 5k with a mentor or a parent. Mixed in with the running are activities to help with the girls' personal growth. One of my favorite sessions so far was teaching the girls about managing their emotions and handling stress. We went over various healthy methods of dealing with stress, and, not surprisingly, we taught the girls how to use running as a way to manage and work through complicated emotions.

I have two daughters and I worry about them constantly. The worries range from hoping that they will excel in school while not give in to the pressures of sacrificing their values for popularity, to hoping that they will search out and befriend good people, to hoping that they will be kind to others. What I hope most for my girls is that they will grow to be strong, smart, and independent women. Lucky for them, they have a good example in a mom who runs the household smoothly, makes sure that homework is done, cooks dinner every night, and still manages to excel at school while following her dream of becoming a nurse.

The Girls on the Run program helps the girls develop their strength and confidence through running, but also encourages them to become the strong, powerful, smart, and self-assured young women that they are and that so often society tries to beat out of them. I love seeing the bonds that these girls are developing through running, and I love seeing what happens to the girls when they are allowed to fly.

More information about the Girls on the Run program can be found here. The program is always looking for coaching volunteers. You can find a local chapter (or start your own) here.

Raptor Ridge Half Marathon -- Race Report

This was a fun one. The Raptor Ridge 1/2 marathon is a very interesting course and one that can really hurt. The first four miles are flat, then there is this steep mile climb, then you run down the other side, turn around and run back up and over. The flats aren't really easy in a half marathon because of the pace, and then you throw this one long climb into the mix and it can make for a tough second half.

The morning had perfect running weather with a chilly start and some low-lying fog with bare branches reaching out. There was the usual nervous pre-race banter and sandbagging about how this is just a training run and how it's been a long week of training. As the bullhorn sounded and runners jockeyed for position I listened to the breathing, sometimes hard, of those that let their adrenaline get the best of them, starting too fast. My legs felt good with smooth motion, just enjoying the sunrise over the ridge that we would soon be climbing, the sun burning my eyes.

The climb was mechanical, just keep moving, fight off the voices telling me to walk, recuperate for a few seconds, fight off that ultra mentality because I was racing this. It was a training run before the race started, but  there were a few people up ahead that were breathing heavy, looking down at their feet with heads bobbing up and down, struggling, suddenly it was a race.

I held back on the downhills, and tried to recover from the climbs. A flaming red-bearded downhill bomber with a Tough Mudder headband flew by me on the downhill. I caught him later, feeling strong for the last four miles, feeling like this is marathon pace and I can hold this.

This race was a good confidence boost for the December marathon. I finished as fast as I started, I held a 7:15 pace in a half marathon with a couple of long, tough climbs, and I felt like I could have kept going.

The Dirt Devils put on a great race with one of the best race shirts ever and a cool pint glass for all finishers. The race was very well organized and supported. It was a large crowd; I hear it was double last year's size, which is good and bad. I don't think the trail can handle many more people and I love the small feel of trail races, but I am happy for the success of the Dirt Devils and the San Diego Running Institute. I guess if you put out a good product, people will hear about it and it will be popular.

On an unrelated note, my friend Veronica, who is on the Carlsbad School Board, is going to read part of the letter I wrote to my daughter at the next school board meeting. She is going to be talking about teasing and bullying. I'm honored that she would choose to read part of it, and I really hope that it helps in some small way.

Thanks for reading.

This is the elevation profile for Raptor Ridge 1/2

My homemade version wasn't that far off
At this point in the race, I believe I was compliant with the speed limit

Great gear. I just realized what all my other race shirts are missing...raptors.

Winner -- You Are An Ironman Book Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who left a comment and/or joined my site for a chance to win the book You Are An Ironman. I made a list of all 25 comments and used to pick a winner and the winner is...

Detroit Runner.

Old-school spreadsheet (MS Works Version 1.2)
Next time I'll try to think of something a little more creative.

I promise that Detroit Runner's victory has nothing to do with the Tigers knocking off the Yankees last night, or Verlander (along with Martinez and Peralta) bringing home the fantasy baseball glory to my team, "The Pen is Mightier." Congratulations Jeff.

On the running front, I've been getting in some good quality runs in preparation for the Las Vegas Marathon. I'm a big fan of quality over quantity, and while I'm not doing monster weekly mileage, I feel that I'm getting some really tough workouts in while avoiding injury (my wife is going to kill me for writing that). On Wednesday I did one of my toughest workouts to date. I went to the Y and ran on a treadmill for the first time in months because I wanted to get an accurate pace on a flat surface and I don't have easy access to a track. The workout was a 3 mile warm-up followed by 8X800 at 10K pace with a "rest" interval of 400 at marathon pace. This workout kicked my butt. I think the purpose of this is to make marathon pace feel comfortable, either that or to create puddles of sweat all around my treadmill and gross out the suburban moms and the senior citizen walkers on the adjacent treadmills.

Speaking of suburban moms, it dropped to 60 here this week, so the Burberry scarves are out in full force.

I'm racing the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon this weekend. It's a great trail and I'm really excited to run it. There's no elevation profile on the site, so I did some satellite triangulation and mapped it with the U.S. Geological Survey's elevation database, ran it through some custom algorithms and this is what I have to look forward to:


Thanks for reading.

Outrunning CF at Daley Ranch

I had a great run at Daley Ranch on Saturday. These trails are some of my favorites, mostly because they are so close. I can drive about 20 minutes, pass through the ugly sprawl of Escondido, turn a couple of corners and wind up at Daley Ranch and 30 or so miles of trails with some good climbs, great views, hidden ponds, and a good mix of wide trails and some fun singletrack sections.

This run was special because of the people who showed up to support the fight to cure Cystic Fibrosis. I want to let those people know how much I appreciate them. I have met so many great people through running, which is kind of funny, because one of the things that drew me to running, and one of the things that I still love about running, is the quiet, solitary time I am able to spend on the trail. Although I enjoy the quiet miles, I really appreciate the friendships and connections that I have made with so many great people.

Saturday we joined hundreds of others across the country to Outrun CF. It was a perfect morning on the trails, and I want to thank Isaac and his two children (who will soon be outrunning all of us), Christine, Beth, Chad, Trisha, Jeff, Chris, Andrea, Kim, and everyone else who supported the Outrun CF event.

Also, I'm giving away the new book, You Are An Ironman at the end of this week. You can enter here.

Thanks for reading.

Here are some pictures from our Outrun CF run.

Ratings and Recommendations