Speed Run (11k)

It’s cold, nasty and all kinds of shitty out.  At least it’s not snow so, hey, let’s go with it.  Today’s schedule calls for another 11k speed set along Thunder Bay Rd.  Hopefully, with it being so damp and moist out also means that I will be that more inspired to get it all over with and home again into a hot shower.  That’s the kind of workout I can endorse.  Later after work, it’ll be an early afternoon nap with then kid in front of ‘Shark Tank‘  before we start with dinner.  So with that in mind, I’m getting bundled up and heading out the door into the imminent crappiness forthwith.  To keep me moving, I selected another oldie but goodie from my university days:  ‘Leisure‘, by the shoegaze pop darlings Blur.

This, along with ‘Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches’ by the Happy Mondays, was my first introduction to the whole ‘Madchester’ crazy back in high school.  Plus, it’s has only, like, the best album cover ever.  It’s actually their debut album released in August of 1991 in the United Kingdom via Food Records, and then peaked at #7 in the UK Albums Chart. In reality though, it was released only at the tail end of the popular Manchester scene although I didn’t know it at the time (I was a bit late to the party apparently). Very apparent on the album however, is the whole (and newly emerging) ‘Shoegaze’ feel, particularly in tracks such as ‘Sing’ (which is pretty on par with any Syd Barrett type of warped psychedelia), ‘Repetition’, ‘Birthday’, and ‘She’s So High’. But it’s not all noise and drone, no sir, there are inspired upbeat tracks like ‘There’s No Other Way’, ‘Bad Day‘, ‘Come Together‘, ‘High Cool‘, ‘Bang’  and a cool extended mix of ‘I Know’  which I gleaned from the Remastered album released in 2012.

I have to say, today was an awesome run.  Not only was I feeling the juice today, but I also happened to be running through this low laying fog rolling in off the lake thick as camp fire smoke giving the whole landscape a rather surreal and eerie ‘Friday the 13th‘  kind of feel.  Needless to say that the inspiration was there to keep a steady pace through 4 x 1200m  and 3 x 400m  sets lest I should end up with a hatchet in the back of my head.

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It’s been quite the stressful day.  And I don’t necessarily mean in the bad way either but more in the ‘Go Go Go!!!‘ sense.  I picked up my first new car (which, true, is very exciting) this morning and then completed a few high level business meetings in the afternoon before needing to prepare a  hurried dinner in order to make the kid’s scheduled swimming lessons at the YMCA.  Did I mention the kid was home today too?  Oh yeah.  It’s true seeing as how it’s still a ‘holiday’ in the public school’s eyes despite the rest us still needing to go to work.  So, on top of all the usual office bullshit there’s also the multiple room cleaning negotiations, lunch negotiations, snack negotiations, laundry negotiations, snack negotiations again, shit, it’s like I’ve suddenly turned into an FBI hostage negotiator (click HERE).  Plus I have a 10 kilometer swim for charity coming up in six short days and I’m not 100% confident I’ve trained successfully and, oh yeah, did I mention a bird has already shit on my new car?  So yeah.  I’m wound a bit tight.  Who wouldn’t be?

To make matters worse, today was a scheduled recovery day which, honestly, I don’t necessarily enjoy.  I mean, yes, I did some stuff on the mat while waiting for HRH to finish her lessons, but that hardly counts as a “workout” per se, so, really, I’ve had no opportunity to run or swim away the tension as I usually do.  I decided then that a short walk around the block might be a good idea; no Garmin, no fancy stretchy pants or any of that super resistant, ultra pliable, dry-wicking bullshit either, just a plain ‘ol hoodie and the iPod.  OG baby.  ‘Original Geezer’ that is.

Anyway, for this evenings jaunt I opted to listen to the ‘Emancipated Hearts‘ EP by Dean Wareham (2013).

Released in October of last year, this EP represents Dean’s first-ever solo project outside either Galaxie 500 or Luna.  Rumor has it that this six track offering was largely written around a singular premise:

“Each of these songs started with one line or phrase I borrowed from a poem or film or newspaper headline, so the idea is you steal one line and then build your own song around it.”

Neat, eh?  Each of the tracks in their own way are nothing short of miraculous.  The title track ‘Emancipated Hearts‘  is like listening to the ‘Little Drummer Boy‘  whilst tripping balls, ‘The Ticking Is the Bomb‘  is right out of the Galaxie 500 playbook, and ‘The Longest Bridges In the World‘  could be the opening credits for the next David Lynch movie.  It’s brilliant.  Relaxing and brilliant.  Some of the touchstones cited in the making of the EP include German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1969 film ‘Love Is Colder Than Death’, George Orwell’s ‘1984′, ’60′s psychedelic-folk unit the Incredible String Band (the closing track, a cover of ISB’s ‘Air‘), and American playwright and poet Nick Flynn.  That’s some pretty deep shit for a 25 minute walk around the block wouldn’t you say?

So do I feel better?  Yeah.  Much.  I just needed a little decompress time.  And pie. All things are immediately better after pie.  So, yeah, Dean Wareham, a walk around the block, and pie.  I know, it may not seem like your usual Betty Ford tail of reckless excesses and rampant addiction but, hey, it’s my own unique way of coping, what can I say?

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Functional Strength/Core

Today was the big day.  Yes, today was the day I finally picked up my first real “big boy” purchase in the way of a brand spanking new Honda CRV so I’m wrapped tighter than an airport sandwich; it’s exciting and terrifying all in one single tightly rolled, compact fuel-efficient anxiety attack.  Thankfully, today is recovery day after a good seven day stretch of intense workouts so I don’t have anything particularly important to get done aside from passing some time on the mat while the child is at her swimming lessons, so something enjoyable and perhaps a little downbeat would be appropriate; something like Cuff the Duke‘s ‘Life Stories for Minimum Wage‘ album, which, consequently, could be my life’s epitaph.

This the debut album released in 2002 and recorded at Umbrella Sound and at The House of Miracles in Toronto; it was later re-released in 2007 on Outside Music.  ‘Life Stories for Minimum Wage‘  is full of songs about frustration, loneliness, heartbreak and the female curve ball. Likewise, its jammed packed with great arrangements and instrumentation’s (organs, moog, harmonica), with each track remaining fluent in style as the sounds tell a story to its listeners.  From the gorgeous opening ‘Blackheart‘  through the driving ‘Hey Baby‘  and on through the rootsy ‘The Difference Between Us’, Cuff the Duke share Blue Rodeo’s eclectic love of genre-hopping and (bizarrely enough) Americana and prog rock influences. Is it alt-country or is it alt-rock? Or is it some entirely new hybrid altogether?

My favorites however are the two instrumentals ‘The Ballad of a Lonely Construction Worker‘, and ‘Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump‘  which hint at the more experimental work they would do with Paul Aucoin on successive albums.  Lastly, the the album ends with one of the catchiest whistling songs this side of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Patience‘  with ‘The Trouble and the Truth‘  which was enough to have me wrap the workout up and head for the showers.  And, now, for the remainder of my day, I’m going to slink down into my comfy chair in front of the boob tube and let it all simply melt away.

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Easter Dinner

I’m home from my run, showered, hydrated and ready to face the day…in the kitchen boiling, broiling, baking, chopping n’ shit so I need some accompanying music.  It’s not often I get alone time here at the family ranch, much less alone time in the kitchen so I’m going to make the most of it.  True, the only real ‘motion’ happening, per se, is me tossing pots and pans around and perhaps moving things in and out of the oven but, regardless, I’m willing to make another exception and allow this additional ‘non-motion’ related post.

Today’s Easter dinner making anthem then is a true treasure although it’s unlikely you’ll ever see it listed on any greatest album lists (it just squeaked in at #100 in Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Albums of the Last 20 Years’ list in 1987. It did, however, go to #1 on the UK Albums Chart, and stayed there for several weeks, becoming the best-selling album there in 1971. For me, it’s among the Top Five albums in my own desert island picks. For years, back in university, this was my preferred late night dorm room album of choice after nearly everyone else had left to pass out.  Today though, I get to play it…LOUD.

Electric Warrior’  is the sixth studio album by T. Rex (being the second album under the name “T. Rex”, with the first four billed as “Tyrannosaurus Rex”) released in October, 1971. The album marks a big turning point in the band’s sound as it dispenses with the folk-oriented music of the previous albums and pretty much kick-started an entirely new music genre, ‘glam rock’. The album’s cover is actually quite deceiving in that it’s not heavy or rock-like at all, aside from ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’ maybe (which became the band’s only top 10 US hit), but is instead much more subdued; several of the songs still display Marc Bolan’s lyrical poetics of the previous albums, with ‘Cosmic Dancer’, ‘Monolith’  and ‘Girl’  all flirting with such deep ideas as re-incarnation, fate and the divine. In fact, he sounds just as obsessed with the weirdness around us as ever, whether it’s singing about spiritual mysticism or begging a flying saucer to take him away as he does in the incredibly trippy ‘Planet Queen’ (my personal favorite). There are other amazing tracks worthy of full volume as well like ‘Mambo Sun’, ‘Jeepster’, ‘Lean Woman Blues’  and even the lethargic ‘Life’s a Gas’.

In short, it’s an album you can play over and over again and still  ultimately reconnect with each and every time, which is exactly what I did this afternoon while prepping dinner.  So much so that going forward, subsequent future listens to this particular album will inevitably be associated with the smell of baking ham…

…not that that’s a bad thing mind you.

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Long Run (21.1k)

It’s Easter and you know what that means.  Yup, you guessed it.  Ham.  Unfortunately, it also means that I have to first prepare said ham along with all the fixings for our family dinner this evening so I have to suck ‘er up and get ‘er done pronto so I can get back and get the swine in the oven.  Part of me thinks that Jesus got off easily.

Anyway, before this all this kitchen madness goes down I first need to slip in my long run…all 21.1 kilometers of them.  It’s become something now as an unintended tradition that I begin any holiday with a self-induced half marathon distance run.  Maybe I should start naming these solo events with awesome catchy names like “The First Annual Run for the Chocolate Bunny, Easter 2014“, or “The Inaugural Easter 2014 ‘Hammer for the Ham’ Half Marathon“.  Since it’s only me running (aside for those fictional imaginary ones who might be racing beside me that is), I typically place really well.  Seriously, it’s not often I podium at a running event but out here, on the back roads of Ridgeway and Crystal Beach, on the morning of any major holiday, I’m probably out reenacting an Olympic marathon worthy finish in my head where I’ve just mounted an impossible breakaway from the rest of the field in a desperate bid for the world record.   Oh, I can get dramatic when things begin to get tough; but it’s passes the time.  Then I get home, eat and drink coffee and – in this particular case – bake a ham and the world is an amazing place.  It’s my own perfect holiday formula.

So, it’s particularly important I chose something equally amazing and inspiring to listen to.  I’ve already documented a few experiences while running with the Grateful Dead, so I figured another selection from my collection of bootlegs would do nicely, this time from the Sportatorium in Pembroke Pines, Florida (May 22nd, 1977); otherwise known as ‘Dick’s Pick Vol. 3‘.

From the album sleeve:

“This show was originally recorded on analog tape manufactured in the late 1970′s. Many tapes from this period have exhibited severe deterioration in recent years. The chemical formulation has failed over time, causing the magnetic oxide (which holds the musical information) to separate from the mylar backing. Fortunately we were able to recover the music on these tapes by using a baking process which rebonded the oxide to the tape. While the results of this restoration were quite remarkable, occasional weirdness remains.”

Beats the shit out of me what this means but this here ‘oxide’ sure does sound purdy good.  The first set with it’s inspired ‘Help On the Way> Slipknot!> and Franklin’s Tower‘  segue motivated me to make an early suicide breakaway from the other race leaders like Dave Scott and Mark Allen, while the second set beginning with a ripping ‘Samson & Delilah‘ into an ‘Estimated Prophet> Eyes of the World‘  combo kept me maintaining that consistent pace up the long, gradual uphill stretch along Nigh Rd. from Buffalo Rd. and then again up Gorham Rd. into Crystal Beach and home.  Poor bastards never stood as chance for today’s particular brand of awesome.

Mental note to self:  Despite what Garmin says, MacDonald Rd. does not run continuously along the lake from Rosehill Blvd. to Buffalo Rd.

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Easy Run (8k)

It’s been a decent training week so far.  9k accomplished in the pool (so far) and 36k done on the road (including both a speed and tempo workout).  Plus, there’s been some spinning, some lifting and even some fun time.  And the best part?  I don’t even really feel all that beat up.  How awesome is that?  It’s so awesome as a matter of fact that I’m slipping in an extra bonus run today for the sole purpose of having fun outside with a Good Friday afternoon jaunt around the ‘hood and enjoying some tunes.  No pace, no intended distance, no time limit, and most importantly…no drills.  Nope, all hopping, leaping and skipping were hereby canceled on account of too many mummies with carriages and puppies on the Friendship Trail.  No sir, just a soothing easy 8k run.

Furthermore, I’m bummed I couldn’t think of any special “Easter” themed* album off the top of my head except, maybe, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar‘  or, this here weird shit but, hey, I have some standards I still wish to hold dear and ‘No Shit Music’ is still my personal mantra.  I still wanted something fun and funky (more fun and funky than, say, being trialed, tortured and crucified such as the tradition suggests) to run to as well, something like the amazing ‘Dusty in Memphis‘  album by Dusty Springfield.

Let’s face it, most of us had no idea who Dusty Springfield was until the release of the ‘Pulp Fiction‘ soundtrack where Tarantino popularized her ‘Son of a Preacher Man‘ tune for an entirely new and hip audience.  I was no different.  Not simply happy enough to buy the soundtrack, I ran out and bought me a vinyl copy, like, a week later, and this is the version I’ve specially ripped to digital just to enjoy this afternoon.  Likewise, although it did not garner significant commercial success upon its original release, and remained out of print for many years, ‘Dusty in Memphis’  is now frequently included in lists of the greatest albums of all time.  My own personal Bible (Mojo, August 1995) ranks it as #92 on their list of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time.  The original concept at the time was simple:  ship Dusty down to south with Jerry Wexler (record industry mogul) and record an album just like they’d done with Aretha Franklin.  Simple right?

Well, it was…despite the tension that Dusty tended to bring to the project.  She couldn’t agree on material and tempers soon flared in the studio (along with an ashtray it is said) in regards to her reluctance to add vocals which were later added in New York.  So, yeah, the album title maybe should have been  ‘Almost Dusty In Memphis‘.  Whatever, this hardly tarnishes the albums total fun and funky brilliance.  Besides, ‘Preacher Man‘, there’s other instant hummable classics like ‘Don’t Forget About Me‘, ‘Have a Good Life Baby‘, ‘That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-Dee-Ho)‘ and an amazing ‘You’ve Got a Friend‘.  It’s all really damn good honestly.

Interesting run fact:  At exactly the 6.66k mark of this afternoon’s run, I was at the crossroads of Point Pleasant and the Friendship Trail, listening to ‘The Windmills In Your Mind‘.  This is of no further purpose or consequence to you beyond knowing that no smoking demon appeared and challenge me to a guitar duel.  Merry Easter to all.

* I did originally play with the idea of creating a rabbit-based holiday playlist that included tracks like ‘White Rabbit‘ (Jefferson Airplane), ‘Are You the Rabbit‘ (Marilyn Mansion), ‘Son of a Gun‘ (The La’s), the ‘Harvey‘ soundtrack, ‘Myxomatosis‘ (Radiohead), etc., but all those rabbit and running references started to make my heart race just putting it together so I gave it up.

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Tempo Run (8k)

Today’s quest is two-fold, a quick paced 8k (500m w/u, 7k @ 10k pace, 500m w/d) run this afternoon followed by a similarly intense 90 minute Masters Spin class later this evening. The weather has improved since Tuesday’s freak snow storm and although it’s still cool and brisk out, at least it’s bright and clear and otherwise pleasant for a quick temp run around the neighborhood. I even left the jacket at home and just doubled up on jerseys and shorts over tights. I’m so retro.  I know.  I wish I was kidding here.  Anyway, I’d better try and recoup what might be left of my ‘cool factor’ I by trying to overcompensate with some cool tunes, like those available on the ‘Blue Lines’  album by Massive Attack.

‘Blue Lines’  is the juggernaut of a debut album by the Bristol, England trip hop sensations released on April 8th, 1991 on Virgin Records.  I think many musicians and record producers might have even followed a star in the sky to the actual studio where it was conceived on the eve of it’s release – or so I have been told.  I am currently enjoying the Remastered version released in November of 2012.  Ain’t I special? Anyway, this is the album that all but single-handedly created the ‘trip hop’ genre.  Think about it:  it was so good and so different that they couldn’t accurately label it, so they invented an entirely new classification of music to cater specifically to them.  Now, that’s bound to be some good shit, amyright?

It’s eloquent, complicated and delicately beautiful. My own music Bible (Mojo, Aug. 1995) ranks it as #68 on their 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made list. But it didn’t stop there…not by a long shot. In 1997, it was named the 21st Greatest Album of All Time in a “Music of the Millennium” poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian  and Classic FM.  In 1998, Q readers placed it at #58 in its list of the 100 Greatest Albums, and in 2000, the album was voted at #9 in the magazine’s poll of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked #395 on Rolling Stone‘s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. So, yeah, lots of mentions.

The thing is, it’s worth every word – every single vowel and consonants of praise providing you give the focused listen it deserves.  And what better way to pay singular attention to and appreciate then while out jogging the back roads?  The best part is, from start to finish, curb to curb, clocking in at exactly 45 minutes, it is the perfect length – note for note – for a 8k distance tempo run.  That includes a decent warm up tune (‘Big Love‘) and a similarly cool warm down track (‘Hymn of the Big Wheel‘); everything else is just inspired ‘filler’ to keep the pace.  It’s like it was simply intended for runners.

Okay, and, truthfully, there’s a secondary reason why I chose this album as I still have that “dear in the headlights” look from last night after signing the final financing on a new car.  New.  Me.  Car.  Yeah.  Needless to say, I’m still pretty freaked out over my first real “big boy” purchase, so something calming and introspective was definitely in order today to try and somewhat relax and ground myself again instead of just sitting out on the front stoop waggling my lips with a stiff index finger.  Seriously!  From my first steps out the front door (despite the gasping of breath or beating of heart) the run kinda went like this:

“Okay, try not to think about it.  It’s no big deal…it’s no big deal…c’mon, you deserve this…it’s no big deal…it’s no big deal…shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit…..”

Push ‘play‘ on iPod.

“…shitshitshitshitshit….*sigh*…ahhhh.  Birdies.”

Yeah.  Exactly like that.  Any further questions?

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