Years ago, when iPods were just showing up in the wilderness, there was lots of conversations about if they were appropriate. Needless to say, with the proliferation of electronics in the backcountry (and the accompanying solar chargers,) that question has mostly been answered. I’ve always felt that as long as my actions didn’t “pollute” anyone around me, they were my personal interaction with the wilderness. I  also feel like music is that unfair advantage or secret weapon when it comes to performance. For me, it deflects my mind away from the pain in my legs, lungs and feet and suddenly my stride conforms to the beat of music and the miles float past. Oh sure, I’m still tired at the end of the day, but in the meantime…

I wrote the following back in 2005 while working on a “Top Ten” playlist my co-workers and I shared with each other at Christmas.

My best ever time riding 100 miles was one lousy minute over six hours. I was dying to do it in less than five. I got this fabulous idea that I would get a pickup truck, install a killer stereo in it, bolt some monster speakers onto the tailgate, and get someone to drive it in front of me while I rode my bike. All I needed was to blast some carefully selected, hard-driving Rock N’ Roll off the back of that truck and I would break that five hours.

Well, it never happened, mostly because I couldn’t find anyone dumb enough to drive it at 20 MPH for five hours.

No matter. It probably would have attracted the interest of the CHP anyway.

Years later, along comes the iPod and with it my renewed interest in the coolness factor of blending music and human powered sports. Okay, I still don’t use it for bicycling (you can’t hear that car that’s sneaking up behind you), but there’s still plenty of opportunity to use it for running, skiing or hiking.

My brother always joked that all you needed to be “Extreme” was an attitude and your own soundtrack. I think he’s right. Every time I hear George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” on my iPod I’m instantly transported back to a section of the Great Ski Race where I was double-poling a short section of the race (4 minutes and 56 seconds worth to be exact) in time to George so hard I was passing people like they were standing still. Suckers. Thanks George.

So, as you listen to this music, imagine you’re running, hiking, riding, skiing, or whatever. Suddenly my stereo in a pickup truck doesn’t seem like such a dumb idea, does it? There have been a lot of cool inventions in my lifetime – Gore-Tex, Macintosh’s, soft-shell jackets and iPods. But my personal ESODS (Extreme Soundtrack Outdoor Delivery System) has gone from being a pickup-truck-carrying-speakers-bolted-to-the-tailgate to a tiny little box that can hold nearly every song I own. I love progress.