Brick Run (3.86k)

It’s “balls to the wall” day beginning with a 3500m  ‘muscular endurance’ swim, my usual 90 minute Masters Cycle class followed by this 25 minute Brick run.  And I won’t lie, I’m pretty exhausted and looking forward to a rest day…next week.  This evening, I am keeping myself motivated on the “dreadmill” with the ‘With/Avec‘  EP by Plants & Animals.

This is the second EP released by my favorite Montreal indie rockers and my first actual introduction to the band’s recordings.  If you recall, I discovered the band at an Elliott BROOD concert (consequently, with Dan, the same guy who wrote/produced the ‘City  Fathers Cluck Their Tongues‘  that I ran to on their very treadmill two weeks ago) where they performed as the opening act and it was their version of Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman‘  that really grabbed my attention, so this is the keepsake I walked out with that night given it also happens to be on this disc.

Where the album ‘Park Avenue‘ (see the link above) took nearly three years to record, this EP took only three days.  The EP’s opener ‘Lola Who?‘  could be a nod to the Beatles ‘Ballad of John & Yoko‘  and was terrific for establishing a decent pace to begin the run.  ‘Faerie Dance‘  has a certain bubbly urgency to it to keep that run pace alive, that reaches a devastating intensity mid-song with a cutting cello line before grooving into a sing-along outro.  ‘Trials & Tribulations‘  has a certain Simon & Garfunkel melody meets Radiohead psychedelic sheen to it, and then there’s the awesome live rendition of ‘Sinnerman/Guru‘  that I originally fell in love with to end the run on a high note.

On a completely different note, tonight’s run was rather on the, well, weird side.  How else do you explain running to a French Canadian Indie rock band while watching news footage of runaway lamas (seriously, click HERE).  Stranger than fiction I tell you.

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Functional Strength/Core

Also on the docket for today’s training schedule is the TryForce Masters Swim class at the Kiwanis Aquatic Center, of which, I haven’t participated in some time.  Tonight is Coach Roberto’s last workout and, despite swimming 3000m  yesterday morning, it seems as good a time as any to join in.  Unfortunately, it’s not until 8:00pm; exactly three hours from now.  Having already completed my run this afternoon I’m hardly driving home just to drive back into the city, so I’m passing time by catching up on some functional strength/core work that has been severely lacking in my routine lately.  I’m also using the opportunity to check out some new music, the ‘Luminal‘  album by The Acid.

I’m typically not a DJ guy but when Angie, the hostess at my favorite local haunt The Sanctuary suggested that I might dig it, I made a special note to pay attention as we tend to share a lot of similarities in our music tastes.  The Acid is actually a collaboration between three DJ’s Adam Freeland (remixes of Orbital and The White Stripes), Ry X (one half of Howling) and Steve Nalepa (an composer, and professor of music technology).  The album while relying heavily on house and dubstep in the same vein as, say, Portishead’s ‘Dummy‘ album, it actually bears no hallucinogenic qualities, though, but rather slow-burn, corroding effects: songs that begin with a drip – snare-rim taps, synthetic hand-claps, bass frequencies that throb like a merciless migraine – and eventually leave burn marks, which is awesome to thaw out to after this afternoon’s cold ass run.

‘Liminal’  is intriguing.  Whether it’s the sleek yet feral atmosphere of ‘Tumbling Lights‘, which evokes, say, walking through a jungle at night (or, maybe, doing Pilates in a space primarily occupied by meatheads), or the subtle building and blending of acoustic and electronic textures on ‘Basic Instinct‘  and ‘Ra‘.  X’s melancholic, Thom Yorke-like tenor is the fulcrum for these explorations, and he sounds at home in whatever backdrops Freeland and Nalepa give him.  His storytelling also helps the Acid distinguish themselves from their peers, particularly on the aptly named ‘Creeper‘, where a narrative of uneasy desire (“I wanna touch you in a painted stall”) unfurls over a pulsing, fractured track that conveys several kinds of tension; the same I might feel each and every time I walk into the gyms locker room.

Whatever it was, it sure helped kill some time productively on the mat in my quiet corner of the gym until which time I can head off to get into the pool with the TryForce gang.   Thanks Angie.

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Fartlek Run (5k)

I’m going to attempt to do something today I have never done before; namely, run from the office.  That means actually get up, leave my desk sometime before lunch, get changed into my running duds, go for a jog, come back, change back into my office clothes and resume working.  I know, it’s crazy.  But today, being as time crunched as it is I have little other choice as I can’t bare the thought of running on a treadmill later on;  -16° (feels like -26°) weather be damned!  The second goal is simply on getting some short interval (5k) mileage in (picking up the pace along the portion of cleared pavement and then slowing down when it wasn’t), as my legs are still a bit chewed up after Sunday’s hard slog through the crap (click HERE).  So I have my running kit set up by my desk getting all warm and cozy and, to boot, I have the ‘Days Into Years‘  album by Elliott BROOD cued up on my iPod ready to go.

This album released in 2012, was actually inspired by a side trip the band took during a European tour back in 2007.  Faced with five days to kill getting from Barcelona from Amsterdam, they chose to take the back roads on the southward journey and they soon found themselves winding their way through the Belgian and French coastal landscapes.  They were drawn to the picturesque seaside ports, quaint villages and secluded fields in the countryside, where they were compelled to stop and explore.  They visited historical battlefields and cemeteries along the way, all culminating in an early morning stop at Juno Beach. On these excursions they found countless Canadian names carved on WWI-era headstones.  It wasn’t until weeks later, caught in the midsummer Paris rush hour traffic, did the band begin to discuss the effects of that journey.  As they reflected upon their experiences, they came to an understanding that they would one day write an album that was inspired and influenced by that five-day trip.  ‘Days Into Years’  is that album.  How apres peau  then that today’s battle through the frigid winter weather down Bunting and Canal Rd. is set to music inspired by the battles of World War I and World War II (not that I am in any way comparing my runs to the horrific atrocities of war and Naziism).

The songs on ‘Days Into Years‘  deal with universal themes of grief and loss and despite what you might feel about it’s pretty dismal mood, it topped Canadian radio’s roots music chart after its release in September of 2011.  The album’s first single, ‘If I Get Old‘, a slow dramatic rocker that contrasts the serenity of a life in the countryside with the disturbing memories that haunt even the strongest survivor, was inspired by a visit to the Étaples Military Cemetery in France, where many dead Canadian soldiers from World War I are buried.  When Sasso sings, “I’ll never be the same again without my youthful heart,” it’s a heartbreaking moment – not unlike the moment I turned onto Scott St. an directly into the bone-chilling wind; I think I might have actually felt my heart stop for a moment.  They also explore the tragedy of young men coming to terms with the realities of war on ‘Their Will‘, where shrieking guitars mimic the sounds of battle while the vocal harmonies wail with anguish.  Dissonant guitars and tremulous vocals also add drama to ‘Will They Bury Us?‘, a song for dying men struggling to come to terms with the growing darkness that surrounds them.

On an entirely different note, the album also includes the band’s song ‘West End Sky‘, originally composed for the soundtrack to Adriana Maggs’ film ‘Grown Up Movie Star’  and was nominated for Best Achievement in Music – Original Song at the 31st Genie Awards (it lost).

So, much like the struggles to preserve our freedoms, I successfully completed my run and my fingertips have finally thawed out enough to type out this post.  And with this first workout in the bag (not to mention a touch of frostbite), it’s back to work with a hard earned and well deserved salad.

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The Avenger

HulkFebruary, Monday’s in particular, have not been kind (or maybe it’s been merciful, depending on how you decide to look at it) to my spin class.  One class was canceled on account of stupid ass winter weather and another for the Family Day holiday, so I wasn’t sure what to throw at them tonight as we’ve since fallen off our “program” a bit.

I opted then to run them through this “Avenger” of a workout including short sprints, 3 climbs (easy, medium and hard) and some short and long “race pace” intervals to see how they responded.  The verdict?  They kicked ass.

Tonight it was very evident to me how far my core group of participants have come since we started this all back in September; they now look, act and ride like cyclists.  Their ability to suffer, cope, focus and endure transcends my wildest expectations and at times almost brings a tear to my eye…almost…but not quite.  Because that would be sissy.

Tonight’s Playlist:

  • Finish What Ya Started – Van Halen
  • Who Do you Love? – George Thurogood
  • Elephant – Tame Impala
  • Stone & Starving – Parquet Courts
  • Leave Someone – The Wilderness of Manitoba
  • Novacane – Beck
  • Ramble Tamble – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Get Miles – Gomez
  • Eminence Front – The Who
  • Sick Sick Love – Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves
  • Livin’ In the City – John Butler Trio
  • Here It Goes Again – OK, Go!
  • One Sunday Morning – Wilco
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Vinyl Sunday (Part 2)

Okay, as with life, sometimes you have to take some chances.  I did that once before by gambling on a special 12″ single (click HERE) featuring baby duckies riding motorcycles and it totally paid off.  I made another such gamble this past week at ‘BJ’s Records & Nostalgia‘, by spending $9 on the soundtrack to the 1977 Clint Eastwood classic ‘The Gauntlet‘. The Gauntlet

First off, just look at that album cover.  How could you ever  resist that?  It’s got everything schlocky I love about the 70’s including muscles, guns and the exposed midriff of a scantily clad Sandra Locke.  It’s, like, uh-mazing!

Secondly, the album features the jazz of Jerry Fielding who composed and conducted the entire soundtrack.  Fielding was better known for creating avant-garde jazz soundscapes, but he tempers that angle of his approach here with elements of swinging big-band jazz, blues, and soul to create a series of tight, catchy instrumentals that are diverse enough to hold the listener’s interest but smooth enough to flow together nicely as an album.

The Gauntlet‘  nicely re-creates the feel of a cinematic experience by offering up an effectively balanced combination of gentle, soothing melodies (‘Bleak Bad Big City Dawn‘, which makes evocative use of Jon Faddis’ swinging trumpet lines over a mellow, piano-driven rhythm section) and driving, attention-getting action music (‘Manipulation on the Center Divider‘, which pits throbbing, Eastern-flavored percussion against percolating riffs from the horn section).  Fielding finds one showcase for avant-garde tendencies on ‘The Box Car Incident‘, which builds from synthesizer drones and one-note string lines into a burst of militaristic horns and percussion, but it remains melodic enough to be compelling listening. However, the album’s key cut is the title track, a stunning instrumental that combines jazz with traditional film orchestration to create a thrilling synthesis of swinging horns and taut, militaristic rhythms.  All in all, it’s a strong, consistently engaging album that is well worth a listen for any soundtrack buff whose tastes lean toward the “crime jazz” sound.

Best $8.99 I’ve spent, only, EVER!

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Vinyl Sunday (Part 1)

I’m on my own this weekend as HRH  is away so I’m indulging in something I’m confident she probably wouldn’t dig as much as I do, the awesome ‘White Light/White Heat‘  album by the Velvet Underground.

Velvet Underground

This past week I was in Barrie, Ontario on business and while there visited the local record store ‘BJ’s Records & Nostalgia‘, just off the “Five Points” intersection on Clapperton Street.  My intent was to simply look around and get a feel for the place and then maybe head back before I left for home at the end of the week, providing there was something I was interested in.  Of course, there was.  Lots of it to be exact.  But I did manage to leave empty-handed on this particular occasion, preferring to mull over what it was I had found and I would most like to have for my collection over a few beers at The Local Gastropub.

Amongst those finds was this album.  However, I knew this had to be among my purchases when this very same album was also mentioned in the Billy Idol autobiography ‘Dancing With Myself‘  that I am currently reading.  It was like an omen, so I went back the next day and grabbed it. ‘White Light/White Heat’  is the 2nd studio album by the Velvet’s, released in 1968.  It was the band’s last with violist and founding member John Cale. In 2003, the album was ranked #293 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  The album was recorded in just two days, and with a noticeably different style than their debut album ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’.   Cale described the album as “a very rabid record…The first one had some gentility, some beauty. The second one was consciously anti-beauty.”  Sterling Morrison said, “We were all pulling in the same direction. We may have been dragging each other off a cliff, but we were all definitely going in the same direction. In the White Light/White Heat era, our lives were chaos.”  Okay, honestly, with endorsements like that how can you not  be intrigued?

Nearly every song on the album contains some sort of experimental or avant-garde quality. ‘The Gift‘ (my favorite), for example, contains a recital of a short story and a loud instrumental rock song playing simultaneously, with the former on the left speaker channel and the latter on the right.  ‘I Heard Her Call My Name‘  (which, interestingly enough, sent Tina the Cat running for cover – I guess she doesn’t share my passion for the Velvets)  is distinguishable for its distorted guitar solos and prominent use of feedback.  The lyrics on the album vary from themes of drug use and sexual references such as fellatio and orgies (which makes it the perfect listen sans child), including the song ‘Lady Godiva’s Operation‘, about a transsexual woman’s botched lobotomy and the title track ‘White Light/White Heat‘, which describes the use of amphetamine.  Neither of which I would ever care to explain to HRH. ‘Here She Comes Now‘, the most straightforward radio-friendly pop sounding song on the album, is built around a double-entendre.  On the album’s last track (which takes up 80% of Side Two), ‘Sister Ray‘, Lou Reed tells a tale of debauchery involving drag queens having a failed orgy (in which, includes the eloquently repeated chorus of “and she’s sucking on his ding-dong”), while the band plays an improvised seventeen minute jam around three chords.

I could go on and on but I’d never do this album complete justice.  So if you’re in fact interested to learn more about this particular album, click HERE for an excellent historical account/review by the music gods at Mojo Magazine.

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Long Run (13.15k)

I’m pretty fed up with winter.  I’ve had enough of the snow shoveling, the -stupid° temperatures, the sloppy icy roads and, well, everything else that goes along with it.  In a nutshell, you could say “take your fucking winter and shove it up your ass” (click HERE).  Having said that, I still have these runs to accomplish so there is still that initial onus to suck it up and get ‘er done.

I haven’t run in six days seeing as how I was away on business and never felt the desire to suffer out in -48° temperatures around Kempenfelt Bay so, instead, I stayed indoors and focused on eating and drinking.  Hey, it was supposed to be a recovery week anyway and nothing says “recovery” like lime fried chicken on a spiced waffle with cider honey.  Oh, and let’s not forget the caramel sticky pudding or the pints Strombach porter either.  Anyway, following yesterdays Cycle for Strong Kids at the YMCA, I’m back at it today with this winter run all set to another live long ago recording from Palooka performing at The Barnea, in near-by Fort Erie, Ontario (June 24th, 2000).

Palooka4

The boys gave me this recording years ago after the actually show – being the total fanboy I was – and I’ve listened to it a dozen or so times since then, but it’s been a good while now so I opted to listen to it again in the hopes it wold keep me warm and moving along my extremely slippery and shitty route.  I may or may not have actually been at  this show but that memory unfortunately has been lost to time.

Documenting the shitty.

Documenting the shitty along Nigh Rd.

Anyway, Palooka standards ‘The Harbour & The Bow-Ring‘  and ‘Country‘  started off my run and had me clipping along at a fairly decent pace (5:26min/km) down Thunder Bay Rd. and their cover of Max Webster’s ‘Battle Scar‘ saw me through some tough moments along Stonemill Rd. heading into the wind.  ‘The Urinal Song‘  and a whimsical cover of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain‘  set a comfortably slow pace turning into the wind on Nigh Rd., and then things started to get shitty, and ‘Agar‘  made it all the more shitty.  Not that it’s a bad song, mind you – it’s actually a really great song – but I just couldn’t match the pace I would have ordinarily liked to maintain with this particular song seeing as how I couldn’t really find the proper footing to maintain anything more than barely a walking pace as my quads slowly started to slowly rip apart after nearly 50 minutes of trudging along the extremely slippery roadway.  Even the awesome cover of Ween’s ‘Dr. Rock‘  could do little to get me going.  The last song on the recording, however, the 12 minute long ‘No Name‘  was perfect to drudge along to in total defeat; catchy as it is.

It’s hard coming off these runs and feeling anything but disappointment.  Although my right foot is healing and I believe some of my run fitness is beginning to return, I’m still a long way off from where I normally am by this point in my training schedule and one look at either my distance, time or pace will only further remind me of that.  I am trying hard to remember that just getting out and accomplishing 13.15k kilometers on a cold and shitty day in conditions that would make most Inuit keep inside their igloos to watch reruns of ‘Friends‘  in and of itself is a triumph; regardless of how long it took me.  I have to stay true to the “plan” and focus instead on being smart, as opposed to being tough.  The tough will come soon enough.

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