February 24, 2013

Music To My Ears

I was recently interviewed for Talk Ultra and it went live on Friday. Here's the link with full podcast details. As it lists in the Show Notes I pick up the mic at around 2h30m into the show.

I've never been one to train or run with music, though I love music, strive to discover new artists on a regular basis and attend at least five or six live shows a year. Music is a big part of my life, yet it has never effectively made it into my running on anything near a regular basis. The main reason behind this is that I've simply never had success in any of my running with music experiments. The last time I recall running with music prior to 2013 was during the final 20 miles of my WS100 2010 run. The music made a huge difference in helping to block out the pain and I do believe it allowed me to close out stronger than I would have otherwise, yet my setup was still marginally frustrating and it never migrated into my regular running routine.

Heading into the HURT 100 last month I really wanted the ability to zone out over the final 20 mile loop and I knew from experience what an asset music could be in this regard. I started searching through online running with music forums and write ups and sure enough there has been a slight technological shift in how you can effectively run with music these days. My primary issue in the past has always revolved around the wires and how to effectively cut down on the annoyance of the bouncing and frustration of the tangling.
Though we don't yet have hoverboards in our daily lives the integration of bluetooth technology has slightly revolutionized the listening experience. After a few hours of disseminating information I made the decision to break the golden rule. I was going to purchase new items that I wasn't going to get a chance to train with. I was going to effectively trust in the reviews I'd read and head into my final lap at HURT with a completely new system that I had yet to properly test. (it arrived the day before we departed for Hawaii and I ran with it for a total of 30 minutes in advance of the race)

The Jaybird Freedom bluetooth headphones promised a lifetime warranty against sweat, but more importantly they offered up to 6 hours of battery life and cost less than $100. The reviews were pretty much unanimous that these were leading the way in the bluetooth headphone charge.
I didn't want to simply carry my bulky smartphone, so next I sourced the smallest bluetooth enabled music player and it didn't take long to settle on the brand new iPod Nano, even though I had recently happily migrated away from Apple based products. At $149 for 16gigs it seemed reasonably priced and it was incredibly compact and exactly what I was looking for.

I rather blindly trusted that my own research combined with the manufacturer claims, along with the reviews I'd read, would be accurate enough to at least get me through my final HURT lap without any major issues. Sure enough and thankfully so everything performed amicably on race day and I got away with my breaking of the cardinal rule in ultra running.

Since HURT it's been a bit of a treat to incorporate music into my personal running experience as I've always  desired to do. Typically right now I'll use music on one or two of my runs a week, usually on days where motivation may be lacking, or on days where I'm looking to run at a hard pace and where I know music will help push me along.

Today I got to listen to my first Talk Ultra podcast while running and it worked perfectly as a distraction tactic to help me focus on my twenty mile run more than the shitty-ass weather of the day. I was almost an hour into my run before I even looked at my watch or processed that I was already sopping wet with a few hours of running left to go.

Music and podcasts are a highly effective way to keep motivation high or help bolster motivation when it may be lagging far, far behind you.

So I'm curious, do you listen to music or podcast when you run? If so what kinds of music or podcasts and what type of setup do you use or prefer?

I hope you enjoy the interview. I really like what Ian and Talk Ultra are doing for the sport and it was an absolute pleasure to get a chance to tell my story a little in front of what I know is a very diverse international listener base.

As a side note, some other long term ultra running goals that I failed to touch on near the end of our talk include:

-FKT attempt on Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier
-A possible larger volcano based multi day running journey in WA State
-FKT attempt on entire Pacific Crest Trail which stretches from Mexico to Canada and finishes/begins in the park where Linda and I are getting married later this year
-FKT attempt on the Stein Valley route in BC north of Whistler
-Hardrock 100
-Tour Des Geants in Italy
-Grand Slam of Ultra Running



Russ S. said...

Good Stuff as always Gary. If you need a different system for some reason, I'm a HUGE fan of the Sony Walkman Wireless Series.

Waterproof, no bounce, and has the built in player (simple drag and drop via USB)


LukeD said...


Had just finished listening to the podcast, and your interview, when your post popped up. Was cool to hear about your running/background and congrats on HURT.

What volcanoes would you want to link in WA? Would be great to start with Glacier and head up through Cascade Pass, and then finish with Baker.


PS - hope you got out in yesterday's sun as well and not only today! North shore trails were perfect yesterday...

garobbins said...

Hey Russ, that's interesting and I hadn't happened across it in my research.

How do you find it fits? What's the battery life like?


garobbins said...

Hey Luke, nice hearing from you!

I was unfortunately stuck inside working during that sunny day but have made up for it since:)

Yeah the thought was something along the lines of St. Helens, Rainier, Hood, in no particular order and with the potential to add more in in a week long push maybe?


Budducci said...

Hey Gary,

Mostly I listen to audio books. I spend so much time running, that's how I do most of my 'reading'. I've been using The IPod shuffle instead of the nano, mainly because I've lost or wrecked a number of them over the years and that's the least costly replacement. So far, just wired headphones, too, so no battery needed.

Good stuff,

garobbins said...

Huh, that's a great suggestion. I'll try that for sure.

Do you just purchase your books from iTunes or amazon or audible? Any differences in pricing?

Thanks Adam,

Mandy M said...

Hi Gary, I listened to your interview on Talk Ultra. great stuff. Congratulations on HURT. I started listening to Talk Ultra about a year ago and love it. The podcast has inspired and motivated me to do my first ultra, Chuckanut 50. I listen to that podcast on my long runs, Marathon Talk podcast which is also inspiring and motivating along with my favourite cheesy pop songs. I experimented with specific beats per minute songs (I think 180 bpm) which were supposed to be best for running to but found i went back to my own favourite tunes. I use an ipod shuffle too.
All the best with your plans for the year. Look forward to reading about them and being inspired.
Mandy, Vancouver, BC

garobbins said...

Hey Mandy, thanks for commenting and nice work on signing up for your first ultra!

I couldn't agree more about listening to what you prefer vs a specific BPM, though I've read similar reports myself.

I'll be at Chuckanut as well, all the best and maybe I'll see you there.


Peter Ellis said...

Hey Gary! If ya make it down towards Rainier this summer, shoot me an email! I work as a climbing ranger for the park there. If you need a running partner for part of the Wonderland, I'd love to join ya. I've done it in 28 hours, mostly walk/jogging, and we slept for 5 hours. So I'd love to improve that, or just do part of it with you. Or if you want to climb Rainier, let me know! That's what I do all summer!

garobbins said...

Hey Peter, that'd be awesome!

What's your email address?


garobbins said...

Or just drop me a line at