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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Functional Strength/Weights

It’s just me and the child this evening while mommy goes for yet another evening out with her lady friends.  Mental note to self:  I gotta get me some guy friends.  I’m really not really complaining mind you, it’s not like I don’t get enough time away during my workouts, competitions, and whatnot, so fair is fair.  Instead, I’ll pack HRH  up and we’ll head to the gym so she can play for an hour at her Kids Club while I sneak in a quick functional strength and weights session before we head home for some cuddle in the chair with Disney.  Yes, the diverse life of the triathlete dad.  So for tonight’s 60 minute session I’m pulling out an old favorite I don’t hear enough of, the 1997 ‘Pup Tent‘  album by Luna.

After splitting with the influential indie-rock trio Galaxie 500, native New Zealander-turned-resident New Yorker Dean Wareham devoted himself to honing the gentle, melodic, Velvet Underground-circa-’Candy Says‘  sound of his old band in the increasingly sterile and perfectionist twin-guitar outings of his new group, Luna. Guitar buffs may have been impressed by the occasional E-bowed solo, the spooky layers of feedback, or the cool chorused tones offered up by Wareham and Sean Eden. But 1992′s ‘Lunapark‘, ’94′s ‘Bewitched‘, and ’95′s ‘Penthouse‘  didn’t have much beyond that to keep the general audience coming back (the rubes!), and it seemed as if the band’s career peaked when snippets from the last album were used in a TV commercial for Calvin Klein’s CK-1.  It’s surprising, then, that critics claimed ‘Pup Tent‘  boasts the most memorable tunes that Wareham has written since Galaxie 500′s ‘This Is Our Music‘  back in 1990.

This album finds Luna breaking away from their signature dream pop ever so slightly, adding the occasional brass flourish and waves of loud guitar. The expansion isn’t entirely successful, since it often seems forced and de-emphasizes the hazy melodic qualities that are the hallmark of the bands best music; even with the weaker moments, there are still a number of fine songs on this album particularly. It just takes a little effort to dig them out. ‘Bobby Peru‘  is named after an eccentric, overtly creepy character played by Willem Dafoe in the David Lynch film ‘Wild at Heart’.  Wareham read the phrase ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy‘  in a Don DeLillo book and, despite that, it’s still totally rockingly awesome.  And, shit, I guess he really liked and was inspired by pancakes to write ‘ihop‘, who knows for sure.  But they’re all really cool. He did say however that the last track, ‘The Creeps‘,  isn’t terribly good and probably should have been left off the album.

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Drills/Speed Run (11k)

Snow?  You gotta be shittin’ me?  After all the gorgeous weather we just had this past weekend, Mother Nature still has to have one final laugh?  Seriously?  This sucks.  I was just running in a t-shirt and shorts this past weekend and just put all my winter running crap away!  Not fair.  But be all that as it may, I still have business to take care of and, hopefully, before we get the full brunt of the 2-3cm they’re predicting.  And today’s planned workout isn’t an easy one either, namely, a speed workout of which I have been significantly lacking.  Fortunately, I have good tunes plans to pass the time out on the road with like the awesome ‘Giant Steps‘ album by the Boo Radleys.

Having taken their band name from the character in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the Boo Radleys were a mainstay of the British alternative and shoegazing scenes of the early and mid 90′s, even though they only ever to generate the one top 10 single in their entire career (‘Wake Up Boo‘ in 1995).  ‘Giant Steps‘ (inspired by John Coltrane’s album of the same name) is their third and most proficient album which goes far and beyond the commonplace shoegazing sound by incorporating elements of pop, reggae, noise pop, 60′s psychedelia, jazz, ambient and orchestral styles of influence.  It represented a monumental leap forward in creativity for the band, on the scale perhaps had Radiohead leaped from ‘Pablo Honey‘  directly to ‘OK Computer‘  or, say, Pink Floyd from ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn‘ directly to ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘.  NME and Select named it as album of the year in 1993 and it reached the UK Top 20, but did not spawn a Top 40 single.  Upon reviewing the album’s rerelease in 2008, Sic Magazine wrote, “For 64 minutes they were the greatest band on the planet.”  And, yes, for 64 minutes today it provided good motivation through a tough 4 x (400m, 800m @ 5k pace) interval set plus 1 x 1200m (@ 10k pace) just for good measure, along Thunder Bay Rd. (11k in total) despite the driving April snow.

I remember this album from my third year of university.  In fact, it might be one of the few things I actually remember well from that year.  Stand out songs (both back then as well as now) include ‘Barney…(And Me)‘, ‘Lazarus‘, ‘Leaves & Sand‘, the funky ‘Upon 9th and Fairchild‘, and particularly ‘Spun Around‘ and ‘Butterfly McQueen‘ which are both tres cool for setting a fast tempo pace, and then the under-appreciated and overlooked Beatlesque ‘White Noise Revisited‘, the last song on the album which, consequentially, is the perfect warm down tune.

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Functional Strength/Core

I took a lieu day from work today to complete some errands and otherwise try to burn off all the butter tarts I’ve been eating this weekend.  So on top of hitting up the bank, my financial planners, the rental agency, Henley Honda, the grocery store and my fathers, I also wanted to complete a 4.4k swim and a light functional strength and core set in the afternoon before hightailing it home again to take over dad duties for the evening (the kidlet is home from school sick again).  For the event I decided to celebrate (for lack of a better word) the passing of Kurt Cobain who died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound twenty years ago (April 5th, 1994). Okay, I’m a bit late but, hey, better late than never.  Today’s choice then was ‘Unplugged In New York‘  album by Nirvana.

Thing is, I’ve never really been a Nirvana fan.  Sure, I had some moments when ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘  came out when I was in high school but that all changed after the few billion listens on the radio.  In fact, the only album I can really bear listening to and, in fact, is the only album I have by them in my collection is this live album which features an acoustic performance taped at Sony Music Studios in New York City on November 18, 1993 for the television series ‘MTV Unplugged’.  As opposed to traditional practice on the television series, Nirvana played a set list composed of mainly lesser-known material and cover versions of songs by The Vaselines, David Bowie, Meat Puppets (during which they were joined by two members of the group onstage), and Lead Belly. It was the also the first Nirvana album that was released following the death of Cobain. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and has become the group’s most successful posthumous release, having been certified 5x platinum in the United States by 1997.  It also won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996.

This, in many senses, isn’t just an abnormal Nirvana record, capturing them in their sincerest desire to be R.E.M. circa ‘Automatic for the People‘, it’s the Nirvana record that nobody, especially Kurt, wanted revealed. It’s a nakedly emotional record, unintentionally so, as the subtext means more than the main themes of how the band wanted to prove its worth and diversity, showcasing the depth of their songwriting.  As it turns out, it accomplishes its goals rather too well; this is a band, and songwriter, on the verge of discovering a new sound and style.  But, then, it was all over beginning with the single wedging of a big toe into the trigger of a shot gun.  For my intent today, it was a neat listen on the mat through a series of clams, bridges, crunches, and shoulder stretches – nothing more, nothing less.

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Long Run (17k)

It’s hard to keep up with your training schedule while traveling, what with nasty pools, unfamiliar territory, work obligations, etc., so I fell a bit behind last week while away on business.  Today, however, it’s back to the grind with another long and easy 17k run and, hopefully, the reestablishing of a regular running regimen once again.  Today’s long haul soundtrack is another double live album, this time from Blues Traveler with their ‘Live From the Fall‘ album.

‘Live From the Fall’ represents the bands first full-length live album, released on July 2nd, 1996 featuring highlights of their autumn 1995 tour.  Like any jam-oriented band, Blues Traveler has a reputation for being better in concert than they are in the studio.  Initially, the band wanted to release the album without track indexes, so the listener could hear how each song flowed into the next (kind of how each kilometer passes into the next while running) and the album does sound like that – like a never-ending medley, where melodic themes pop in and out of the long solos. Occasionally, they detour into covers (War’s ‘Low Rider‘, and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine‘), but they mainly weave a tapestry of their own material, including rarities like the B-side ‘Regarding Steven‘ and the unreleased ‘Closing Down the Park‘.

"Grrr, baby, yeah!"

“Grrr, baby, yeah!”

As far as the run went, it was an ideal day for a ‘Lighthouse Run’ – my go to route when I’m feeling good. What it might lack in overall distance it makes up for in scenery and mental fortitude.  It’s my equivalent of Rocky running up the 72 steps at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; all that’s missing is the ugly sweats and the cheesy ‘Gonna Fly Now‘ soundtrack.  What can I say?  I have some standards. I get the same sense of accomplishment and motivation (despite the priests window to throw down a blessing or two of course) from running this route and it reminds how incredibly lucky I am to be able to live and train where I do.  Adding to the enjoyment today was the incredibly warm weather (warm enough to be the first long t-shirt appropriate run of the year as a matter of fact) complete with warm breezes off the lake which made the going even more pleasant.

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QEW to Ridgeway, ON

After six days, it’s finally time to head home.  Thank God since I’m sick of hotel life, powdered eggs, corner porn shops and Subways, stained couches, skanky gym floors, weird skater people, not to mention about having about all I can stand of the greater Simcoe County area in general.  Plus, I miss my girls, my cats, my comfy couch and my normal training routine.  So, after fueling up on Micky D’s coffee and grabbing some butter tarts from the Sweet Oven, I’m finally hittin’ the road and rollin’ home with some good tunes, specifically, the Firehouse Blues Band featuring Peter Green at “The Bluebell at Shortgate”, in Halland, Sussex, U.K. (March 15th, 2002).

Peter Green, original founding member of Fleetwood Mac, is back in this blues by the numbers show along with the Firehouse Blues Band, for whom I can find absolutely nothing about…like, nada, zilcherino, buckus.  Whatever.  This inspired show includes takes of ‘Steady Rolling Man‘ and ‘Sweet Home Chicago‘ (Robert Johnson), ‘The Stumble‘ (Freddie King), ‘Hey Joe‘ (Jimi Hendrix), ‘Black Magic Woman‘ (Santana), ‘Little Red Rooster‘ (Howling Wolf), and ‘All Along the Watchtower‘ (Bob Dylan), among other blues staples.  So, yeah, there was lots of blues t deal with the weekend rush hour traffic driving through Toronto.

Peter Green himself, is an interesting character.  Believing he was Jesus after joining the psychotic ‘Children of God’ cult and growing his finger nails out, he was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy during the mid-1970s. Many sources attest to his lethargic, trance-like state during this period.  In 1977, he was arrested for threatening his accountant Clifford Davis with a shotgun.  Like, who threatens  the guy who pays him?  The fuck?  Anyway, alll this aside, if there’s one thing Peter knows, its the blues and he was even ranked 38th in Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time – not too shabby for a guy with humungous gnarly finger nails – so it was a pretty cool listen to groove along to on an otherwise long, boring drive home.

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