Another Photo from Charlotte

Second Sole Rocky River, 4th place, 2010 USATF National Cross Country Championship Team. Scott Snow is mysteriously absent from this photo, but the rest of us are here sporting the brand new Second Sole Racing Team singlets.


Back in the Saddle Again

This was my first week back after taking a week off, so I've been a little sore everyday as I get back into the routine again. Once I finish this entry I'm going to head to the park to do an easy 10 miler, which will give me 53 miles for the week. My plan this winter is to get comfortable with the 60-70 miles per week range, but also be smart about it. I want to take a down week after every two up weeks. For example, next week I'll hit somewhere between 55-60 but then I'll drop down to 45-50 the week after that to refuel a little bit. I read a good article in the new issue of Running Times by Zap Fitness coach Pete Rea that discussed taking down weeks while building mileage. This is something I've always thought about but rarely did. Starting on Monday I'm going to follow the 10-week pattern that Pete Magill gave me that I used last winter, which emphasizes 3 key workouts each week. On down weeks I'll still do the key workouts but do a bit less on the filler days. I've signed up for an indoor 5K on January 29 which should be a lot of fun and it gives me something to look forward to because winter running in Ohio can get dull in a hurry. Not much more to report. Time for a little more coffee before I head out the door. Merry Christmas!


End of a Long Season

Pictured above is the Second Sole Rocky River Masters team who finished in fourth place in the USATF National Cross Country Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 11. Left to Right is: John Hopple, Ben Szporluk, Scott Snow, Rob Porter, Steven Fenster, Jim Chaney, and Damon Blackford. Last year we were 12th, so this was a huge improvement.

I was pretty happy with how my race went. While not in as good shape as I was last year at this time I ran a very focused and even paced race and just need to use it as motivation to get faster next year. After taking 6 days off post-race and enjoying some downtime in North Carolina with Bella and her brother Andrew, I'm logging in the miles again and looking forward to a very drama free 2011.


Final Preparation

This week has been my last somewhat hard week of training before I ease back next week to get ready for the USATF Club Nationals Cross Country race in Charlotte. Hopefully, I'll be feeling as good as Kenya's Josephat Menjo (above), who ran the fastest 10K in the world in 2010. After my wind tunnel 5K on Saturday, I took Sunday off to recover and then ran a very solid 2 x 20 minutes tempo workout w/ 5:00 recovery between the segments, averaging 6:15 pace (first rep was 6:20 pace, second rep 6:10 pace). I felt really strong and smooth in that workout, which has convinced me that a day off each week is not such a bad idea. Need to let go of that streak mentality. If I were just running easy every day it would be no problem but stress workouts and races do require recovery. On Thursday, I did my second key workout of the week, 16 x 200 w/ 200 jogs. Nothing fancy here, but I did this workout cutdown style where I did the first four in 42 seconds (about 5K effort), the second four in 40 seconds each (more like 3K effort), the third set in 38 seconds each, and finished with 37s. I like doing workouts like this to work on form and efficiency and if you hold back in the first half, it's a pretty enjoyable workout, though I could have done without the sub 30 temps. Weather looks like it will be in the 50s in Charlotte though this time of year there's a good chance it could rain, which seems par for the course for Club Nationals.

Saturday I plan on doing a very easy 10 or 11 mile medium long run and then I'll do something like 2 x 10 minutes @ tempo on Monday. After that it will be easy running and making sure I'm caught up on sleep. I always take a week off after Nationals, but this year I feel more inspired to get rolling for next year. After my rest break I plan to start prepping for 2011 a few days after Christmas. Not sure what my goal races are but I definitely want to do a fast 5K and maybe do some road miles in the summer (I know there's a good one in Columbus in July). The masters national track and field championships are at Baldwin Wallace at the end of July and I know I'd definitely like to do the 5000 but if I can get my legs moving fast, I might try the 1500 too for kicks.


Tired, Tired, Tired

I think the last six months have started to really catch up with me because my last few races have been pretty off. The last few weeks have been especially rough as I have been taking Bella to very early morning radiation treatments at the Cleveland Clinic, trying to sneak in a workout when I get back, and then working a very busy financial media job from 2pm till 10/11pm. Not trying to make excuses because everyone goes through crap in life, but watching your wife get cancer and go through a hell of a lot to finally kick it is pretty draining to say the least. Not near as bad as what she was going through, but it's very hard to watch and not be able to make things better. Thankfully, the Cleveland Clinic has. I can't imagine any other medical team doing a better job than those guys have done. Anyway, I ran a pretty uninspiring 18:16 5K this morning though in all fairness the winds were really awful in downtown Cleveland and it certainly wasn't a PR day, but since running that 17:06 in early October, I haven't really been that on. I feel great early on in races and then seem to tank a bit in the second half. Club Nationals is in 2 weeks so hopefully I can rebound and run a solid race and then I need to re-evaluate my training. Do I do more? Less? Structure my workout sequence in a different manner? Who knows? I'll figure it out. The fun part about this sport is that what works for you and what doesn't work for you constantly changes.

On a side note, part of me wants to run another 5K race next Saturday as my final effort before Club Nationals XC. I'll decide in the next day or two. Feel free to offer any advice!


Random Update

It's been a while since I've updated this blog. No excuses other than having a lot going on at work and Bella's follow up surgery, which went well. The procedure allows her to bend her knee much more than she had been able to after the first surgery, and to reinforce this she is spending 6 hours a day on an Optiflex machine, which slowly bends the leg back and forth. Good thing she has a laptop to keep her company along with two hyper kittens. Next week she begins the first of her last 8 radiation treatments, which will hopefully be the end of everything. I've learned just to take life one day at a time lately, but both of us are excited to get out of here and go to North Carolina in December. I'm running in the club nationals cross country race in Charlotte on December 11 and we'll be hanging out in NC for a week after that with Bella's brother in Greensboro. The running is going pretty well. I'm amazed that I've managed to stay in similar shape to last year with all the crap that's been going on this year. Trying to keep really focused for that final month. Tomorrow I'll be doing a cross country race in Canton, which should be a lot of fun and on Thanksgiving Weekend I'm going to do a race that I've never run before, The Pigskin Classic. When you sign up for that race, you either get a Michigan or Ohio State t-shirt, depending on your affiliation. Having seen photos of past races, it's basically a sea of red even though Cleveland is more or less halfway between Ann Arbor and Columbus. That said, this year there will be at least one dude up front wearing the Maize and Blue. Take that Buckeyes!


Skeleton Run Race Report & What's Next

Had a solid race at the Amherst Skeleton Run yesterday finishing in 17:41 for 1st in my age group and 6th overall. A much tougher course than the one I ran on 3 weeks ago so I'll take it. I definitely didn't feel quite as sharp, but I've been training really hard for Charlotte in December, so I think that was part of it. A few days before the race I ran a pretty difficult ladder workout consisting of mile-1200-mile-800-mile-400. The miles were all at tempo/10Kish effort and the shorter surges were progressively faster. Anyway, back to the race. First mile is flat and partially downhill and I did my best to hold back hitting it in 5:32. The second mile is really rough with a pretty tough gradual climb of maybe 600 meters or so leading to the 2 mile mark. I hit the 2 mile in 11:17 passing about 5 people on the hill. After that my legs were pretty rubbery but I gutted out a decent final mile.

I decided not to do another 5K on Halloween weekend and get 3 more weeks of training in for my next race, The Twinsburg Turkey Trot. This is a great combo trail/road race and the closest thing to cross country that I'll be racing before Charlotte. A course map with elevation charts can be found here. The race is managed by my teammate Jim Chaney's company, Chaney Events, and I definitely recommend it if you live in NE Ohio. I had a lot of fun there last year (unlike many races Jim will have the results up for you in minutes, not days!).

With 7 weeks to go before Charlotte, I've mapped out my final weeks of the season. Yesterday's race made me realize that I could use a few more hill workouts so I'll be doing a few hill repeat sessions in the coming weeks as well as my usual strength interval stuff. I'm going to drive out to Mastick Woods for a few trail runs as well.


Training Update: Rolling Along

I had a really good week of running post last weekend's 5K race. Hit around 50 miles with two quality workouts. On Tuesday I did 5 x mile on the grass path at Lakewood Park in my cross country spikes. The times weren't all that fast but the conditions were pretty sloppy since it was raining and the footing wasn't the best. A good workout for getting used to the elements. Not all cross country races are in ideal conditions (at the end of the fall they usually never are), so best to prepare for the worst. My other key session was an 8 mile progression run on Friday, which I really nailed, running 46 seconds faster than I had done the previous two times I did this workout. The last 3 miles were 6:14, 6:07, 5:46, which was exactly what I was looking for. This week I had been hoping to run in an 8K cross country race at Oberlin on October 16, but it looks like they will not be letting unattached runners compete. Too bad. I was really looking forward to that. My plan B was to do the Rocky River Spirit Run on October 17 (hilly course so a decent XC simulation), but that just got canceled. So now I've decided to race again on October 24 at the Skeleton Run in Amherst. I've done this race before. It's very competitive and there are a couple of good hills in there, plus you veer off onto a scenic bike path, which is pretty fun. Not a PR course but I really want to get in a race on something other than a pancake flat course. Speaking of that, if all goes well in the Amherst race, I may do the Pumpkin Run 5K in Lakewood on October 31. That course is FAST, same one where I did my recent 17:06. On the workout agenda this week is 20 x 400 on the XC course with super short breaks tomorrow and a hilly fartlek workout on Friday to get into the groove for the Amherst race.

As for the shoe on the left, that's the newest color scheme of the Brooks Launch, which I just got. Great shoe (see my review from earlier this year) and I hate not having a visual when I post something on this blog.


Crocodiles - Sleep Forever

Crocodiles are a duo from San Diego consisting of Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez. Though they may hail from temperate climes, their acclaimed 2009 debut Summer Of Hate was definitely no Beach Boys theramin-heavy sunshine trip, owing much owe much more to the dark, druggy sounds of icons such as Suicide, Spacemen 3, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Songs like the title track, “I Wanna Kill,” and “Refuse Angels” contain elements like spooky tremolo, brutal beats, and nasty feedback, and most importantly, they are catchy as hell. Sleep Forever isn’t a huge departure from the debut.  Like Summer of Hate, Sleep contains only eight songs and clocks in at under 35-minutes, the band again not wasting time on any excesses whatsoever; in other words, another noise pop masterpiece.

Recorded in a desert studio in Joshua Tree with James Ford, who has worked with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons, Sleep blends together all of the influences that were prominent on the debut with a tad more experimentation. Tracks like “Stoned To Death” and “Hollow Hollow Eyes” feature prominent Krautrock beats that pound like a Mack truck speeding trough the Autobahn. On the other side of the spectrum, the lovely “Girl In Black” and, especially, the masterful closer “All My Hate And My Hexes Are For You” sooth like the dreamier side of Spacemen 3/Sopiritualized with hypnotic drones and lush instrumentation (the latter is about the prettiest ‘fuck you’ song you’ll ever hear!).

The more ‘typical’ sounding Crocodiles tracks on Sleep Forever are stone classics that belong on jukeboxes worldwide. The absolutely fantastic title track (released as a pre-album 7” with a bewitching fuzzed-up cover of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” as the B-side), is a ridiculously catchy, bordering on bubblegum, shoegaze nugget that sounds like a cross between The Telescopes, Jesus and Mary Chain and ‘60s sunshine pop. The staggering “Mirrors” begins with dreamy drones before soaring to epic heights like the best of The Church or Echo and The Bunnymen (probably not a coincidence that Crocodiles share the same name as the first Echo record), while best of all is the infectious “Hearts Of Love,” which combines a sickly catchy melody with a crushing wall of sound that would put a huge smile on Phil Spector’s face, especially the juvenile delinquent-themed video for the song, which is like something out of a vintage James Dean or Marlon Brando movie.

Fires Of Comparison is a digital only EP that can be downloaded for free on the Fat Possum label website. All four of these instrumental tracks are as engaging as Crocodiles’ two proper albums. The none-too-subtly titled “Kill Joe Arpaio” attacks the controversial Arizona anti-immigration sheriff with a heady brew of experimental beats and talk show samples, while “A House With Skin Like Yours” explores similar psychedelic ground to The Black Angels. The brief title track is a little bit of an overly experimental throwaway, but the EP concludes on a high note with the exquisite “Hearts Reprise.” 


Nature's Bin 5K: Does strength = speed?

Amazing what a difference a month came make. On September 4 I ran an o.k., but nothing special 5 mile, feeling like I should have been about 10 seconds faster per mile than I was. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, but all the pieces weren't there. After that race, I made the decision to focus on strength in order to get ready for the Club Nationals Cross Country race in Charlotte in December. Since that Labor Day Weekend race, I've done three sessions of long intervals (mainly mile repeats) on grass paths, three progressive 8 mile tempo runs,  several long runs, and a really good mixed pace fartlek session this past Wednesday. All good quality workouts, but certainly nothing 5K-specific. I felt like I had been lacking aerobic power, and today I proved myself right, running my best 5K of the year by 18 seconds, hitting 17:06 (5:30 pace on the nose) at the Nature's Bin race in Lakewood. The winner, Curt Bachus (also a masters runner) ran 17:02. The conditions were pretty ideal. 53F and some light rain. Curt took it out hard and after I passed the usual crew of misfits who sprint at the beginning of races, I found myself in second place trying to chase him down. I hit the mile at 5:35 and was probably about 6 seconds behind at this point. I was feeling really good, and didn't ease up at all during mile two but couldn't close the gap. Curt was definitely running hard as well. He told me after the race that he could hear my footsteps splashing in the rain the whole time, which forced him to keep redlining it. I hit 11:10 at 2 miles and still felt like I could maintain pace. The last 1.5 miles of this course is very fast as it is a straight shot down Lake Avenue with no turns and you almost always catch a bit of a tailwind here.  I REALLY tried to close the gap at this point and I think I may have got as close as 3 seconds or so with 800 to go but couldn't quite seal the deal. In any case, I'm really happy with the race and feel like I have my groove back.

Now for the second part of the entry. Over the years I've noticed a pattern where I seem to race my best 5Ks when I'm not really training for the 5K. When I do 5K specific workouts like 400s and 800s at those V02 max zones, I seem to lose power and general fitness. It doesn't really make sense, but I seem to gain speed when I don't really focus on speed. I think there's something pretty magical about the 10K/tempo pace zones, especially for older runners. We don't recover as fast as the youngsters, so I think that may be the best way to stay consistent over the long haul. Anyway, my big goal for the fall is cross country, so I'll be at Lakewood Park again this Wednesday lacing up the spikes for some mile repeats.At this point, I'm waiting to find out if I'll be able to get into a college XC race at Oberlin on Oct. 16. That would rock!

Here are some strength workouts that work for me:

1) 4-5 mile repeats at 10K effort  with 400 jogs (or 2-3 minutes) for recovery.
2) 8 mile progression run, starting at normal conversation pace and trying to drop 10-20 seconds per mile. If you do this workout right, you should be running somewhere between 5K and 10K pace during your last mile. I usually start at 8:00 and do something like 7:40, 7:20, 7:00, 6:45, 6:30, 6:10, 5:40-5:50.
3) 6-5-4-3-2-1-30 fartlek w/ half-time recoveries: This is one that I read about in Running Times magazine that the Zap Fitness team does. After a decent warm up, run 6 minutes at about half-marathon race effort, jog 3 minutes and then run 5 minutes slightly faster, jog 2:30 etc. Basically, after each surge you get half-time recovery, so while the reps become shorter, you have to run them faster, and you get less time to recover. This is a great race simulation, especially as you get down to the one-minute and 30 second segments at the end.


Outrageous Cherry - Seemingly Solid Reality

Detroit’s Outrageous Cherry have been making records for close to twenty years now, ranging from experimental psychedelic excursions such as 2001’s The Book of Spectral Projections to pure AM radio inspired and reverb-laced pop. The brainchild of vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Matthew Smith, the group has had a revolving door membership over the years with one constant, Smith’s partner in crime, guitarist extraordinaire Larry Ray. When I listen to Outrageous Cherry I am constantly reminded about something Smith told me in an interview I conducted five years ago on behalf of their then new record on Rainbow Quartz Records, Our Love Will Change The World. Smith noted that from the band’s initial baby steps, “Outrageous Cherry was supposed to be a bubblegum band. I envisioned the Archies, if Leonard Cohen had written their songs to pay the rent.”

As simple as that statement sounds, there’s a ring of truth to it on almost every Outrageous Cherry recording. Smith has a genius knack for infusing subversive messages and arrangements into seriously catchy pop songs that will stay in your head for days. Like all bands that have been around for more than an album or two, Outrageous Cherry have had their highs and lows in terms of popularity. The group seemed to be riding a nice wave five years ago when Rainbow Quartz released the aforementioned Our Love, as well as the following year’s Stay Happy. Both of those records emphasized the band’s more pop-oriented side with a hit parade’s worth of peppy radio-friendly nuggets. With the backing of an influential and successful indie label known for its focus on ‘60s and ‘70s influenced artists, it seemed like Outrageous Cherry might finally achieve some long-deserved mainstream success. This coincided with the championing of the band by influential DJ Little Steven Van Zandt, who released an excellent compilation of Outrageous Cherry’s work entitled Wide Awake in the Spirit World on his Wicked Cool imprint in 2008. Sadly, Outrageous Cherry still remains too much of a best-kept secret in the mainstream, though fellow artists, such as Wilco and New Pornographers love them, the latter even releasing an Outrageous Cherry covers EP! In any case, after a brief recording hiatus post-Stay Happy, Outrageous Cherry came back with a bang on 2009’s phenomenal Universal Malcontents on Alive Records. While Alive is much more known for their garage and punk acts, the label seems to be a nice fit for Outrageous Cherry. For one thing, I can’t think of any label that has done more for Detroit artists than Alive (check out their latest signing The Sights!), and, especially its sister label Bomp! Records, formed by the late Greg Shaw, who put out numerous MC5 and Stooges archival releases during a time when no one seemed to care about either artist.

Like Universal Malcontents, Seemingly Solid Reality is a perfect marriage of all of the genres that inspire Smith, namely ‘60’s bubblegum and ‘70’s AM radio pop with a dash of psychedelic sound to keep things off kilter. To quote Smith, “I grew up on that early ‘70s pop radio when all those different things were mixed up. Things weren’t divided into different formats. Back then it was Anne Murray next to Deep Purple next to Kool and the Gang next to T. Rex. Nobody complained. If you tried to do that nowadays, people would think you were expecting too much of them. Today, it would be an act of political insurrection to play the Beatles next to Gordon Lightfoot and Kool and the Gang all in the same hour.” Seemingly opens with a bang on the alluring title track instrumental, which brings to mind the vibe of David Bowie’s “Heroes” with a hard-hitting glam guitar sound, a perfect mood setter for the excellence that follows. Much of the album outlines the contrasts that have been prominent throughout Smith’s writing career, namely, upbeat arrangements with deep, thought provoking messages such as on “Unbalanced in the City,” an account of urban alienation set to a punchy T. Rex beat. Other highlights include the Modern Lovers-like stomp of “Self-Made Monster” and “Forces of Evil,” which is laced with a sinister psychedelic guitar sound courtesy of Smith and Ray. My favorite song is the finale, “The Unimportant Things,” reminiscent of solo John Lennon, featuring one of Smith’s strongest vocal performances to date.



Cross Country Time!

The photo on the left says it all. Cross Country is a brutal sport. You need to have the strength of a marathon or half-marathon specialist and you need to have the wheels of a 5K guy to handle all the surges and burst of power needed to run a good cross country race. Last week I brought out the cross country spikes and did 5 x mile repeats on a grass loop with 440 jog recoveries. The session went pretty well but I averaged about 25 seconds per mile slower than I would have done on the roads or a track. Cross country running is an entirely different animal and the only way to get better at it, is to do a lot of off road workouts. The best XC runners seem to be able to run nearly as fast on grass and dirt as they do in road races. I'm planning on doing an XC specific workout every week this fall leading up to club nationals, with the exception of weeks when I'm racing (I'll hit the track for lighter tuneup workouts those weeks). In past years I haven't done enough cross country work, so this time there will be no exceptions. Tomorrow I have a good one planned on the grass loop at Lakewood Park, a ladder consisting of mile, 1320, mile, 880, mile, 440 with 440 recoveries between each surge. The miles will be run at 10K effort and the shorter reps will be run at increasingly faster paces with the aim of finishing the last 440 at about the effort I would sustain in a mile race.

As far as racing goes, I won't be toeing the line until I run a low key 5K on October 3, followed by a much higher profile 5K on a hilly course on October 24.  I had initially planned on doing the Cleveland Heroes Run 5 miler this coming Sunday, but Bella is having surgery on Friday to get her tumor removed and will be in the hospital over the weekend. Racing is definitely not on my mind this week.


Painted Hills

Fronted by ex-Beachwood Sparks guitarist, singer, and songwriter Josh Schwartz, Painted Hills combine the beautiful, canyon rock atmospheres of his former group with classic ‘70’s-inspired songcraft that brings to mind the likes of John Lennon and Emmitt Rhodes (a cover of the latter’s “Time Will Show The Wiser” can be found on the vinyl version of this release). The opener “Come on Down” flows like the best of Lennon’s solo work, with Schwartz’s lush melodies taking center stage. Another huge highlight, “Everybody,” soars with seductive “Cortez The Killer”-like guitar work (Neil Young would be proud!). Other tunes like “Morning Light” and the rocker “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” have bring to mind the Paisley Underground sounds of groups like The Rain Parade and Dream Syndicate, or contemporary fellow travelers, such as The Quarter After.

Click here for more info on Painted Hills


Northcoast Challenge 5 Mile

On the plus side it was good to race after 8 weeks away from competition. On the minus side, it kind of showed. While my pacing and finish were solid, I ran about 10 seconds slower per mile than I expected to, finishing in 29:34. Not sure if it was the wind (gusts of 20mph coming from the West and South), or having a really upset stomach pre-race (an Imodium 30 minutes before gun time settled me), or just being rusty, but I didn't get into the race groove I usually do. What helped me was that I always seem to have a knack for knowing what pace is right for the day. My splits were as follows: 6:01, 6:01, 5:54, 5:54, 5:44. The last mile definitely hurt, but it felt good to gut out a fast finish on a day that wasn't my best.

As for what's next, I'm going to scrap the Minster Oktoberfest and start focusing on XC now. Bella's surgery is going to be on September 15, so she definitely won't be 100% to travel for the race - most likely she'll need crutches or a cane for awhile. When I initially made plans to do the Minster race we thought the surgery would be more like mid-August.

As for XC training, I need to ramp up the miles. Averaging 35-40 miles a week (pretty much what I've been doing since July 4) isn't quite cutting it. Obviously, high mileage wasn't my biggest priority this summer; helping my wife get through radiation treatment was, but that said, I do know from trial and error that hitting 50 a week is my optimum level for peak performance (my results tend to stagnate once I get around 60 a week), so I'll aim for that, while including key workouts like mile repeats on cross country surfaces and long tempos.


15 x 1:00 on / 1:00 off

Did my last pre-race hard workout yesterday, an old school one that's popular with the Kenyans amongst others. After an easy 2 mile warm up, I did 15 sets of 1:00 hard (i.e. 5K race effort) followed by 1:00 easy. I started the workout closer to 10K effort, but was definitely moving along faster than 5K race effort by the end. This is always a good workout. It seems easy on paper, but, man, do those 1:00 recoveries start to catch up with you! There's no recovery in a race, so definitely a good simulation. I feel ready to roll on Saturday and it looks like the weather is going to be pretty ideal. I'll keep you posted.


Black Tambourine

To fully understand where Washington D.C.’s Black Tambourine were coming from when they released their first recordings in 1989, you would need to backtrack a few years earlier to the briefly buzzing C86 scene in England. The biggest indie bands in Britain at the time were the Jesus and Mary Chain, fresh off the heels of their monstrously influential debut Psychocandy, and everyone’s favorite jangle pop bedsit poets The Smiths. Those two acts inspired a wave of followers who were enamored with the Mary Chain’s impossibley catchy buzzsaw pop and the sensitive yet substantive genius of Morrissey/Marr (my generation’s Lennon and McCartney). NME magazine documented these fellow travelers on a compilation cassette entitled C86, which included the likes of the very early Primal Scream, Wedding Present, Shop Assistants, a very different sounding Soup Dragons (pre Madchester!), and The Pastels. Black Tambourine were one of the first, if not the first, American bands to respond to these heavenly British sounds. On initial listens, Black Tambourine, who included future members of Lilys and Velocity Girl, and consisted of Mike Schulman, Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Pam Berry, come across as an American answer to The Shop Assistants with Berry’s pristine girl group style melodies soaring over an infectious noise pop sound, but that’s only part of the story. The group was totally schooled in the art of songwriting — “For Ex-Lovers Only” and “Throw Aggi Off The Bridge” are especially potent with heartfelt lyrics and fuzz galore. One clue to the band’s excellence could be their supreme taste in music. Their cover of Love’s “Can’t Explain” is mesmerizing, while the lovely “Drown” is a doo wop throwback that brings to mind something like “Beyond The Sea” or “Sea of Love.” Sadly, Black Tambourine only recording nine songs in their brief existence on a selection of 7” singles and compilations for Slumberland (one of Schulman’s first releases!), Spin Art, and Audrey’s Diary. These tracks were compiled for 1999’s Complete Recordings collection, along with the previously unreleased “I Was Wrong.” Black Tambourine, however, trumps that collection with the inclusion of six more songs, four of them recorded in 2009 by a reunited and rejuvenated lineup, which consist of two originals, as well as covers of Suicide and Buddy Holly. While Black Tambourine never made it big their status remains near legendary in indie pop circles, one only has to listen to Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Dum Dum Girls to witness this.(


When Vikings Ran Wild in the Flats

When one thinks of dominant collegiate cross country programs, the first schools that usually come to mind are the likes of Wisconsin, Stanford, and Oregon, or altitude friendly institutions such as Colorado or Northern Arizona. What would you say if I told you that the Cleveland State Vikings fielded teams that finished 11th and 19th in 1977 and 1979 respectively, and that they had an individual runner named Marc Hunter who finished 4th in 1977 and 6th in 1978, beating the likes of Alberto Salazar? This is Cleveland State, a school in the middle of a city, not a pristine college town. Sure, it's not surprising when a university like CSU sneaks into the NCAA basketball tournament, but downtown Cleveland is hardly cross country training friendly.

Here's the back story. My friend Matt and I were talking about a thread on, which discussed results from some late '70s NCAA cross country races that included legendary runners like Craig Virgin and Henry Rono. In the 1979 results I noticed that a guy from Cleveland State named Don James finished in 30th, an all-American performance. I looked up Cleveland State athletics on Wikipedia and found the team results from the 1977 and 1979 championships mentioned above, but sadly learned that the program was discontinued at the end of 1992, presumably due to Title IX cuts. This led to more searching, where I came across a blog published by a former Cleveland State runner entitled Mike's Cleveland Blog.The blog has not been updated since 2008, but the entry that fascinated me was one entitled "Gone But Not Forgotten."

It's a fascinating read, which chronicles Mike's competitive running career and how in summer road races during high school he became aware of the CSU program:

It was at the road races where I got my first glimpse of where I wanted to one day go to college if I were ever going to amount to a true distance runner after high school. Members of the Cleveland State cross country team were dominating the road racing scene all around me and taking home all of the shiny trophies! I did some investigating, which in those days meant going to the library and looking at old sports page clippings from the Plain Dealer. I had to become part of this tradition and prayed that one day their coach would recruit me.

To make a long story short, Mike was recruited but ended up going to John Carroll as that had been a family tradition. That didn't sit so well with Mike and after one year he recalls, "I cautiously walked up to my parents and informed them that I wanted to transfer to Cleveland State, that is, if it was okay with them. I told them John Carroll was nice, but I felt like I would fit in better at Cleveland State. They are Division I and my friends were going there. They questioned my reasons for transferring but gave me their blessing anyway."

So how did one become a successful runner training in downtown Cleveland? Mike remembers:

I had the experience of a lifetime. Something you would not expect to hear from a serious cross country runner attending an urban campus surrounded by so much cement. I mean, come on...cross country Cleveland? Where are all the corn fields, the woods, and the marshy areas? How can anyone become a true cross country runner at Cleveland State?

Simple. You fall in love with the streets and bridges of downtown Cleveland. You embrace that pungent smell from the fish factory on the west bank of the flats because to CSU runners THIS IS altitude training. You learn to accept that running for your life from large stray dogs when getting temporarily lost in one of Cleveland's many fine neighborhoods is simply called speed work.

Meanwhile results from other years were posted on the LetsRun thread and Matt and I discovered the mind-boggling performances of Marc Hunter. Matt found a link that listed Marc as a two time Ohio high school champion in the mile and I found out that after college Marc represented the USA in two World Cross Country Championship races.

I had no idea that my adopted hometown's city university had such a storied cross country program once upon a time. If anyone knows more, please drop me a line. This might make for a really good article!


Rupp's Place

OK, no one will get this except my runner friends, but I ended up in Norwalk, Ohio last Saturday (long story) and came across this bar that was calling for a photo op. It was pretty dead inside, but a covers band with decent taste (Metallica, AC/DC) kept us entertained.


2 Mile; 4 x Mile

I ran the second 10K-specific workout of my current training cycle yesterday and this one went quite well. Again, I opted for the slower bike paths over the track, but once school is back in session and I can have the track more or less to myself, I'll do my final 10K prep work there. This workout called for a 2 mile followed by 4 x mile, all at 10K effort. I hit the 2 mile in 11:54 going 6:02, 5:52 and after 5-minutes of easy jogging, nailed my miles in 5:51, 5:50, 5:50, 5:49 (3:00 recovery between each). After a slowish opening mile on the 2-mile (like last Friday it took about 800 meters for me to wake up!), I hit everything else on the money.

As a side note, I've got some music and other blog posts coming soon. I realize reading about just workouts may be boring to any non-runners who read this!


4 Mile Tempo

Nice workout this morning at Lakewood Park. After a 2 mile warm up, which included some strides, I knew that this wasn't going to be easy as my legs were still feeling a little heavy from Tuesday's 800s and the heavy humidity wasn't helping. In any case I hit 4 miles in 24:22 going 6:13, 6:07, 6:06, 5:56. The first half-mile was pretty slow (3:09), but after that, I was able to settle into a threshold zone that felt 'right' and hit 91s and 92s the rest of the way before negative splitting the last mile. I'm two weeks into my training block and feel like it's only going to get better. The weather can't stay in the 80s forever, can it? Next Tuesday will be a tough one: 2 miles @ 10K pace, followed by 4 x mile @ 10K pace. I may go medium long on Sunday instead of long to be ready for that one, and then do a long run as my secondary workout at the end of next week. We'll see.


8 x 800

Well, actually 8 x 880 as I ran these yesterday on the marked bike path at Lakewood Park and not on my local 400 meter track. The workout went really well as I seemed to zero right into a 5K race pace effort after a slightly slower first rep. My splits were 2:52, 2:47, 2:47, 2:45, 2;48, 2:45, 2:45, 2:45. For reference point, reps 1 and 5, 2 and 6, 3 and 7, and 4 and 8 were on the same segments. Recoveries were easy 400 meter jogs. As I always seem to run a little faster on the track, I feel good about my fitness right now. I think I'm back in (or very close to) sub 17 5K shape again (usually, long workouts like this don't lie). Next up is a tempo workout on Friday before gearing up for some 10K-specific work next week. Really looking forward to the Northcoast Challenge 5-miler on Sept. 4. The past two years I've run 28:44 and 28:50 on that course, so I'd like to beat that!


Mud, Sweat, and (no) Tears (or) Blood!

Started the second week of my 10K program with a really nice 93-minute trail run this afternoon and felt great throughout even though the temps were pushing 90. I like running on trails after it has rained the night before, because it seems like something is missing if you don't at least get a little bit muddy when you're running off road. I feel fully recovered from the hard progression run last Friday and I think I have this week's plan in place. The McMillan schedule calls for 12 x 400 @ 5K pace w/ 200 meter recoveries as my key workout this week, but I think I'm going to substitute it with 6-8 x 800 w/ 400 meter recoveries, as I feel like I respond much better to longer intervals. I'm 95% sure I'll do this on Tuesday. For my secondary workout on Friday, I'm going to do a 4 mile tempo and, weather permitting, try to run sub 6:00 pace feeling hopefully very relaxed. This week should set me up nicely for the 10K-specific workout coming up in week 3.


Progression Run

Yesterday I ran my second key workout of the week, an 8 mile progression run on the mile loop in Lakewood Park. 8 laps on the same loop might sound kind of boring, but it's perfect for this workout as you'll soon see. The best way to run a progression is to do your first mile at normal easy day pace (it gets you warmed up) and then comes the fun part, running 10-20 seconds faster on each following mile until you hit 8 miles or can't go any faster. Yesterday, I started with a 7:42 and worked down to 7:13, 6:55, 6:42, 6:26, 6:19, 6:11, 5:58, which was a solid effort in mid-80s heat and high humidity. Normally I try to do the last 3 miles in 6:15, 6:00, 5:45, but, like everyone else, I find it hard to redline in the humidity. The progression run is a perfect workout for those training for 10Ks, cross country, and, also, longer races. It teaches you to keep running harder as you get more and more tired. I'm feeling good about my first week of 10K training, and look forward to tackling similar workouts in more ideal temps in the coming weeks.


6 x mile

Today was my first 10K-specific workout of my 8-week training block and it called for 6 x mile @ 10K goal pace with 3:00 recoveries. Being that it was already in the mid-80s and super humid when I got to Lakewood Park around 9:15, I chose to go by effort rather than forcing my goal pace. I ended up averaging 5:55.5 for my set, which was actually not too far off my sub 36 target pace (a 35:58 10K is 5:47 pace). Heat index calculators estimate that a 6:00 mile is more like a 6:15 when it's in the mid 80s and that doesn't even consider humidity so I'm feeling very optimistic. Glad I did this workout on the marked mile loop at Lakewood Park, where I could catch some slight cooling breezes off the lake, rather than slugging it out on the track. Splits were 6:04, 5:54, 5:53, 5:55, 5:55, 5:52. In retrospect I probably should have held back a bit more on the second rep like I did on the first, but I'm happy with the fairly even pacing. Felt like death on the fifth one, and, for a brief second, thought about making it a 5 x mile workout, but then I got mad at myself for thinking that and dialed M for Man-up and hammered the last one nicely. No matter how you pace them the last mile of a 10K almost always sucks so you just have to callous yourself to the pain. I'm leaning towards doing an 8 mile progression run on Friday for my second key workout of the week. There's something about that workout that simulates the end of a long race better than anything else.


The Game Begins

Today was the beginning of my 8-week 10K training program and my workout went well enough. I drove out to Mastick Woods to do a 90 minute long run on the trails. Temps were in the mid 80s (probably should have run earlier!), but it felt about 10 degrees cooler than that on the shady trails. Nothing too eventful to report other than I always realize how much I miss running on trails when I haven't done it in awhile. Felt really good and I didn't push it too hard because Tuesday's 6 x mile session is my meat and potatoes workout for the week. My secondary session on Friday will be something shorter and quicker. Haven't quite decided what to do for that one yet.


Fast Finishes

Had a really good final week of my 'unstructured' training block before I kick into my 10K program this afternoon with an easy trail run. I ran two key workouts that really emphasize finishing strong. The first one I ran on Tuesday is called the 6-5-4-3-2-1. This is a session that is done by the Zap Fitness team, who won the Open team title at Club Nationals XC last fall. After a few miles of warm up, you run 6 minutes hard followed by three minutes easy, then five minutes hard, followed by 2:30 easy. You get the idea. Each surge is one-minute shorter than the one before, but the catch is you run each surge faster than the one before while taking a shorter recovery (half of the time of the surge). I start out at just slower than 10K effort on the 6:00, but am usually running close to all out by the end. A perfect workout for teaching your body to finish fast while accumulating fatigue.

On Friday, I ran one of my favorites, an 8 mile progression run where you start at normal easy pace and then drop about 15 seconds per mile until you're running somewhere between 5K and 10K race pace at the end. This one went especially well as I finished my last 3 miles in 18:01, going 6:15, 6:03, 5:45. From having done this workout before I can guess that I'm probably in shape to break 17:00 for 5K or come pretty damn close. Definitely looking forward to a good fall because this is the best I've felt all year.


Crocodiles - "Sleep Forever"

New single from Crocodiles' forthcoming second album due out on September 14. Can't wait for this!


36 or bust!

I've been slow on this blog lately, but on August 8, I will begin an 8-week training cycle, which will hopefully culminate with a 10K PR and sub-36 performance at the Oktoberfest 10K in Minster, Ohio on October 3. The course is part of the Ohio Grand Prix series and is flat, fast and USATF certified. The program I'm following is a progression of eight 10K-specific workouts devised by Running Times columnist and well-known coach, Greg McMillan. I've pasted the chart from McMillan's article with his comments below:



1 6 x 1M 3-minute jog between 1M repeats
2 10-12 x 400m Run the 400m repeats at 5K race pace; 200m jog between
3 2M + 4 x 1M 5-minute jog between 2M repeats, 3-minute jog between 1M repeats
4 3M Tempo Run or 5K Race One simple prediction method is to double your 5K time and add 1 minute to get your 10K time. Are you on track for your goal 10K time?
5 2 x 2M + 2 x 1M 5-minute jog between 2M repeats, 3-minute jog between 1M repeats
6 20-24 x 200m Run the 200m repeats at 5K race pace; 200m jog between
7 3 x 2M 5-minute jog between 2M repeats*
8 RACE: 10K

You can view the full article here. I plan to do a secondary key workout on most of the weeks as well, plus my usual filler days of easy runs/longer runs etc. Week 4, I'll be doing a 5-mile race instead of a 5K because the best race by far on Labor Day weekend is the Northcoast Challenge, which I've talked about before. At the end of Week 6, I'll also be racing a 5K.

* The editor in me noticed that on the Running Times website they repeated the Week 6 description for Week 7, so I typed in what they meant to say! :-)


Fall Planning

Every year I plan on doing some summer racing, but then I always seem to need to refuel after my July 4 race, so I end up going into a base/strength phase until the fall. This year has proven to be no different. My traditional season opener has always been the Northcoast Challenge (formerly known as Celebrate Westlake). I have done this 5-mile race every year since I started running again in 2005, other than 2006 when we were out of town that weekend. Always look forward to that one. Fast course and really great competition - the prize money draws a lot of fast Kenyans (even masters). I've been feeling pretty strong since the Bay Days race getting in a longer run, tempo/long interval workout, and hill reps every week. I feel like the hills are already really helping. I've never liked doing them, but they definitely pay dividends! I can tell they help my form and they definitely add some power to your game. I've outlined a fall season so to speak that will conclude with the Club Nationals 10K XC race in Charlotte, NC on December 11. Before that I'll be racing a mixture of 5Ks, 5-milers and the Octoberfest 10K in Minster, OH on October 3. I did that race a few years ago when it was unseasonably hot (same day as that infamous heatwave Chicago Marathon race), but if the weather is decent, that's a really fast, flat course and ideal for my first sub-36 as a master. I also plan on running the Natatorium 5K in Cuyahoga Falls this year. I've never done that race but it's USATF certified and I've heard great things about it. Might be a good place to take a sub-17 shot.


A Few Updates

A few life updates listed in order of importance:

1) No Chemo!!!! This is big. A few days ago, we learned that Bella won't have to undergo any chemo treatment. We were relieved to learn that the cancer is only in the isolated spot on her thigh and that it hasn't spread anywhere else.  This week Bella starts on radiation treatments, which will last for five weeks and then the plan is to remove the tumor and hopefully that will be the end of the cancer forever. Just taking this day to day because it's going to be rough for Bella and she will feel tired and fatigued and have some side effects. Thanks a million to all the support we've received from family and friends.

2) Kittens! Last Monday, we adopted two kittens from the Cleveland APL, a two-month old boy named Ike and a four-month old girl named Tina. Tina is on the left and Ike is on the right. It still feels very weird without Milkshake around, but having two energetic kittens running around all day, definitely makes the house livelier.

3) Running The running is going pretty well though obviously taking a back seat in terms of life priorities. I'm not sweating it if I miss a day or two here and there. Strangely enough, I've actually been running better on reduced volume over the last month. I've been trying to focus on staying in tune with the main energy systems for racing well at 5K-10K each week: a) a longer run; b) something strength oriented like a tempo run or mile repeats at 10K/15K effort; and c) something faster like hill repeats. I think I'm going to do a 5K in Independence on August 7 and then definitely start my fall racing season with the Northcoast Challenge 5-miler, which is one of my two or three favorite Cleveland races.


Bay Days 5 Mile Race Report

Had one of my best races of the year at the Bay Days 5 Mile race on July 4, ending up with my best time of the season for that distance with a 29:00. Only regret was that I didn't break 29:00 - I sprinted as hard as I could when I saw the clock near the finish line! My splits were all really even (every mile was between 5:46 and 5:50) and the effort felt strong and controlled throughout even with the high temps, so I'll definitely take it. Next up is a bit of a hiatus from racing as I get in some more strength work like progression runs, mile repeats, hill reps etc. over the coming weeks. I may jump into a 5K or two later this summer, but the first key race will be the Northcoast Challenge 5-miler on Labor Day Weekend.


Trying to Stay Strong

It feels weird just writing this, but this week, we found out that my wife has a cancerous tumor on her thigh. The medical term for this is Liposarcoma. It came out of nowhere less than two months ago. At first we thought it was just a bruise, but when it didn't go down, Bella went to her doctor. An MRI and biopsy later and we got the rather shocking news on Monday. Yesterday she met with an oncologist and had a cat scan and full body scan,  and next week she'll start on a five-week course of radiation, which will hopefully shrink the tumor so it can be removed at the end of August. We're taking this day to day. I feel like I'm in one of those bad dreams that you can't get out of but I know I have to be super strong to help Bella pull through. I've never been a very religious person and I'm scared beyond belief to be honest.


Stress - Recover - Improve

Those three words summed up the coaching philosophy of legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman, who, of course, was also the co-founder of Nike. One of his best runners ever was Kenny Moore, a two-time Olympian in the marathon (4th in 1972), who became even more famous for his writing. Moore's Bowerman biography, Bowerman and The Men of Oregon, is as good as it gets when it comes to sports books and bios for that matter. An amazing excerpt can be can be found here . That article, which was published in Runner's World, before the book came out, neatly sums up what Bowerman was like as a person and a coach and how different his training philosophy was at the time to most of the other coaches out there. The idea of alternating hard days with easy days was almost unheard of back then, but as Bowerman would ask his runners are you in this to do mindless labor, or to get better?

This year I've noticed that I need to focus more on the 'recovery' aspect of training than I have ever had to before. When I started running again five years ago at age 40, it was easy. I trained more and got better. I ran my best masters times in 2008 at age 43 on about 45-50 miles a week with a decent amount of intensity. Last year I upped the mileage to 60-70 a week and though I ran some really good races, I didn't hit any masters PRs. I think in retrospect, the mileage on my easy days was too much, even though I ran it very slowly. This year has been up and down. I had a good winter, but then hit my first race in March feeling very flat. I rebounded with my two best races of the year so far in late March and early April, a 17:24 5K, followed by a 36:14 10K. After that I had a month with some bad stomach issues, which has thankfully gone away. I feel like I'm turning a corner again, but it's only by doing almost nothing on my easy days. I've always been the sort of person that has wanted to work hard all the time but ultimately, competitive running is about performances so who cares what my training log looks like if my races are crap?

A lot of really good masters runners I know and have read about (including national record holders like Jim Sorensen and Rich Burns)  take at least one day off a week and that's something I've started to do. I have one more race this summer (July 4) before I go back into base training mode and get ready for some hopefully fast fall races and a strong performance at the club nationals XC race in Charlotte.


Run For The Young 5K

Definitely a much better race than two weeks ago, so I'll take it, especially since this course had a lot of twists and turns compared to the much more out and back layout at Diemer. I ran 17:39 and was 11th overall and first in my age group in a really competitive race at Crocker Park today. Kind of hot and humid, but nothing unusual for this time of year. A lot of prize money was at stake for the top 3 male and female runners, which always brings out the really fast youngsters. The top 2 guys were both at 15:11, separated only by a few tenths of a second. Too bad there was no masters money! Anyway, I feel like I'm back on track again, especially after a really bad interval workout on Tuesday that felt like death. I'm planning on doing a 5-mile race on July 4 and then taking a racing hiatus until Labor Day weekend. I always like to regenerate in the summer when it gets too hot for fast racing and get in some good base work. If I'm antsy I may jump into something low key in August. Plan is to get back to doing those longer progression runs and hill repeats, which will help build the strength for cross country nationals in Charlotte, NC in December.


Brian Diemer 5K

Not quite the race I was hoping for, more like a B when I was hoping for an A- or an A. I thought for sure I would run under 17:20, but I was 10 seconds per mile off that pace, clocking in at 17:49. I was 4th in my age group and 51st overall out of about 2,000 runners. Not sure if it was the heat and humidity (it was pretty gross out there), but I just didn't have my usual finishing kick. My pacing was pretty even (mile splits were: 5:40, 5:48, 5:44), but that is more like my 8K pace than 5K pace.  Anyway, I'm not going to dwell on this. I have another 5K lined up for June 26 (Run for the Young at Crocker Park) and I've got two weeks to sharpen up and get my A game back.

Oh yeah, one of the fun things about this race is that if you beat 1984 Olympian Brian Diemer, you get a free donut. Brian is the guy in the middle in Red, running with a guy who wears a cardboard sign, which says something like, Beat Brian and Win a donut!


Training Update

My workouts have been going really well since my 5-mile race on Memorial Day Weekend, so I'm pretty optimistic about running a good race at the Diemer 5K on Saturday. Since that race, some of my key workouts have included 12 x 400 @ 82 (5:28 pace) with brief 200 meter recoveries last Wednesday; a 12 miler last Saturday with the last 3 miles in 18:54 (going 6:26, 6:20, 6:08); and 6 x 800 meters at 8K race effort with 200 meter recoveries on Tuesday (I averaged 2:51 for each of those feeling quite relaxed). I feel like I've got my bases covered as far as endurance, strength, speed and power goes, so hopefully on Saturday it's all systems go.


R.I.P. Milkshake

Our cat Milkshake passed away last evening just short of his 6th birthday. It was very sudden, a blood clot from a heart condition traveled to his back legs rendering them useless, and he went downhill very fast from there with other complications. Nothing could be done. We are completely devastated; everyone always thought he would grow into an old cranky ancient cat still slapping people. Thankfully he was surrounded by us and a few friends while he was made comfortable before being put to sleep. I was able to rush to the animal hospital from work and was able to say goodbye to him. He lived fast and died young like any cool celebrity. In fact, he sort of was one. He was my best pal and often acted more like a puppy than a cat. I'd play fetch with him all the time, and every night he would fall asleep on my chest. He liked to feel my heartbeat. I know he's in a happy place right now, but I miss him so much.


Eagle Run 5 Mile and a Motivational Link

Summer is definitely here in Ohio. It was well above 70 and humid as I toed the line at the Eagle Run in Avon. I was feeling pretty revved up to go, but knowing that it was hot, my strategy was to be a little conservative early on and really push the last half of the race. The plan worked well as even after only a few minutes I was picking off people who sprinted out hard at the beginning. I got into a really good rhythm and hit each of my first four miles no faster than 5:50 and no slower than 6:00. There were some twists and turns in the residential neighborhoods where the race took place, but it was flat as a pancake. Absolutely zero shade though. The heat was pretty relentless. I almost never grab cups of water in races, but I did like 3 times today. Not that I stopped or anything, I just grabbed it on the run, tried to get down a sip or two and then would dump the rest on my head. After the first few miles I was pretty much in no man's land as the top finishers were too far ahead of me other than one guy I reeled in just before the four mile mark. After hitting the 4-mile mark in 23:39, I knew I wasn't going to destruct, so I dropped the hammer and finished in 29:13, running my last mile in 5:34. Pretty similar to the way I finished in the Northcoast Challenge last fall (also in hot and humid conditions). I ended up 10th overall and 1st in my age group by quite a bit, so I'll take it. The old course record for 45-49 was 30:48, so it was nice to take it down.

I still have a way to go to get where I want to be this year, but I feel like I've crossed a hurdle. Those stomach issues I had for about a month are pretty non-existent and I feel really good heading into the Diemer 5K on June 12. I don't know if I'm fit enough to beat my 16:58 at Diemer in 2008, but I'd like to top the 17:12 I did last year.

As for the motivational link, Running Times magazine compiles an extensive masters national road race ranking database and the 2010 standards have been published. To be included in the database, one must have to hit the following times. For my age group (45-49), I need to hit 16:55 for 5K, 28:00 for 5-miles and 35:15 for 10K. I think all of those are doable though it's going to take some solid, consistent training. Right now my best times for 2010 are 17:24, 29:13 and 36:14, so that's my motivation as I head out the door each morning.


Stooges Raw Power Box Set

I'll get around to writing a review of this, but for the time being here's a photo of the Raw Power box set! 3 CDs, a documentary DVD, a Japanese 7" single, postcards and a 50-page book with tons of great photos.


Training Update

The workouts have been going well lately and I'm looking forward to having a good race on Saturday. I'll be doing the Eagle Run 5-miler in Avon. It's supposed to be a fast, flat course and the weather forecast is looking good. After 80s all week it will only be a high of around 73 on Saturday. My two key workouts last week were 5 x mile with 400 meter recoveries on Tuesday @ 10K/15K effort and the Friday session of 8 x 400 in 80 seconds (5:20 pace) with quick 200 meter recoveries that I mentioned in the post below. This Spring has kind of flown by but I think I've set myself up for some good summer racing.


Outback Quarters

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the training of Rob DeCastella and Steve Moneghetti, but didn't go into detail about their 'complex training' philosophy. Basically, while influenced by the legendary coach Arthur Lydiard, a later generation of Australian runners took his approach and devised a program that incorporated all of the Lydiard elements, i.e. hill reps, intervals, lots of mileage into a weekly schedule that they would repeat all year round (hence, complex training). One of the famous workouts from their program was a session of 8 x 400 w/ 200 recoveries. OK on paper this sounds ridiculously easy, but here's the catch. The rest breaks aren't really rests. Deke would do his quarters in the 62-64 range with the 'recoveries' at around 40-45 seconds (5:20 - 6:00 pace). Yesterday I laced up my racing flats and did this workout at Rocky River High School. I felt really on and hit every single 400 in 80 on the nose and all of my 200 floats were in the 55-57 range (about 7:30 pace). Adding up the 8 400s and the 8 200s I hit a 3 mile time of 18:11. Not bad for what was pretty much a hard fartlek workout.

Another similar workout that Moneghetti devised, which has been coined the Mona Fartlek, is a session of 2 x 90 seconds, 4 x 60 seconds, 4 x 30 seconds, and 4 x 15 seconds with equal time float recoveries. I have done this a few times in the past in the winter and this one definitely kicks your butt if you do it right.



Villanova coaching legend Jumbo Elliott, mentor of numerous sub 4:00 milers, had a training philosophy, which he coined KISS, an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. Athletes, such as Olympian Marty Liquori (pictured on the left) ran the same workouts week after week. Nothing fancy, just a steady diet of 400s and 200s with a lot of steady distance running on the non-interval days. Famous Australian marathoners, Robert DeCastella and Steve Moneghetti, also adopted a similar philosophy. While they obviously trained somewhat differently to the middle distance specialist Liquori, they too trained similarly week after week, in what has been coined complex training.

I've been trying to simplify things myself. One can find a staggering amount of training information on the internet these days, including a  million and one different training programs for all events. Most road racers are full time workers with a lot of life responsibilities. It's not always practical to have a fancy training program with multiple phases when you're just training for a dozen local races every year. What seems to work for me is a weekly mix of three key workouts: a long easy to moderately paced run; a threshold workout in the 10K-10 mile race pace zone; and something faster like hill repeats or shorter intervals.


Creation Records Documentary Forthcoming!

Can't wait for this! Seriously, Creation Records is my favorite record label of all time and was one of the main inspirations for me when I started Elephant Stone Records. Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, House of Love, Swervedriver, Primal Scream, Oasis, Boo Radleys, Adorable, and so many more ...


Repeats in the Rain

Of course it's like 60 and beautiful outside today as I write this, but yesterday it was kind of like this old photo above of Craig Virgin leading Alberto Salazar in presumably a 10K track race. That said, I always feel satisfied when I brave the elements and run a good workout. You can't control the weather on race day, so why take days off or reschedule a workout if Mother Nature isn't cooperating? I hadn't done mile repeats in a while and I realized that I missed them. I think they're the best workout you can do for races 5K - marathon. Just adjust the rest breaks accordingly, depending on what you're trying to accomplish. As I'm training for 5K/10K I gave myself about 2-minutes recovery (400 meter jog on the track) when I did 5 of them yesterday. If you're trying to get closer to the 3K/5K zone, I'd recommend more like an 800 meter recovery. If you're training for a half-marathon or longer I'd slow down the effort and give yourself maybe one-minute recoveries. I like long repeats better than tempo runs because it's easier to stay in the appropriate zone and not turn the workout into a time trial. If the rest breaks are pretty minimal you get the same benefit too.


Finding the groove

Had my best week of running in like a month, so I'll definitely take it. No real rock star workouts, but a lot of high quality consistency. Did a nice set of 6 x 1000 meters on Wednesday and came back on Friday to do 16 x 200 averaging around 36/37. First half was all 37's before getting into the 35's and 36's near the end. The effort felt reasonably relaxed, definitely not a struggle, so hopefully with a few more sessions like this, 5:20 pace for a 5K (sub 16:40) will feel attainable. Successful 5Ks aren't all speed though, so today I worked the opposite spectrum and ran a solid 10 mile progression run on a hilly 5 mile out and back segment at the Rocky River metro park. I started easy at just under 8:00 pace and worked my way to sub 7:00s for the last 6 miles, including a final mile of 6:20. Effort felt relaxed and I didn't really push it like I have done with some progression runs in the past as I've got some tough sessions planned for Tuesday and Friday this week as I get ready for a May 29 5-mile race.


Launch Delayed

So I hit my mileage max for the pair of Brooks Launch I was raving about so much, only to find out from my friends at Second Sole that they will be out of stock until July. Looks like there will be a new color/model upgrade from what I could gather on a  few Google searches. Well, I can't wait until July to get a new pair of trainers, so I went to the store and  my friend Rick  had me try on a bunch of shoes he thought I would like and I ended up with the latest lightweight trainer from Nike, the Lunarfly. At 9 ounces it's nice and light with soft cushioning. Really good for long runs and the easy recovery runs. A little squishy for fast stuff, but I always wear racing flats for intervals and tempos. I like the limited edition Lance Armstrong Livestrong color scheme, though the normal black and red ones look really cool too. I give them the thumbs up so far -- they felt great on my 11 miler today.


Farewell to a Friend

No, nobody died, but after about 10 years on the stuff, I've decided to stop drinking coffee. Went cold turkey last Sunday and I'm surviving. I never drank coffee when I was younger (always preferred tea), but when I moved to LA in 2000, I started drinking it a lot. I think it was the combination of working for a record label, publishing Vendetta magazine, trying to start my own record label, and DJing that left me needing a stronger kick than tea was providing. But now that I've taken up competitive running again, I've found that coffee has its pluses and, lately, too many minuses. I love the boost caffeine gives me before a hard workout or race, but on the down side, it's been messing up my stomach too much. When I was much younger, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and, while I have been mostly in remission for the last 20 years, certain stimulants like coffee and too much alcohol can trigger things. After having some up and down days since the Meteor 10K in early April, I'm starting to feel much better, and definitely looking forward to some good races this summer. For the time being, I'm keeping my training volume a little lower than usual, focusing on 2-3 optimal workouts a week and doing less than normal on recovery days, until I feel 100% again.


Happy Birthday Four-Minute mile!

Sir Roger Bannister was the first man to break the 4:00 mile, running 3:59.4 in Oxford, England on May 6, 1954. For more about the legendary Bannister, I highly recommend The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb, an amazing account of Bannister, John Landy and Wes Santee, who were all pursuing the seemingly impossible barrier. Bannister's memoir The Four-Minute Mile is also an excellent read.


$25 workout

Wow! My second race mishap of 2010. After barely making the start of the Meteor 10K, today I actually did miss the start of the Ambulance Chase 5K, but thankfully due to chip timing I was able to run the race, starting about 5:00 after everyone else and passing a sea of walkers and runners, finishing in a respectable chip time of 17:53 for first in my age group. Not the race I wanted to run, but if nothing else a good, albeit expensive Vo2 max workout. Here's what happened. Before I set off to due my warm up, I gave my wife my bag, which had my racing flats with chip attached to one shoe and my singlet with my race number. She, for some reason, thought I was wearing them already. I told her that I would meet her at the starting line, but since she thought I had everything I needed she was further down on the course in a spot to cheer me on. It was cloudy so I wasn't wearing my prescription shades, so my eye sight wasn't the best. When the race started and she saw I wasn't there, she ran to the starting line where I grabbed my flats, threw on my singlet and set off in mad pursuit. I didn't time it so the splits made no sense and I didn't realize they were running a different course. At one spot early on when I was just passing walkers I thought I was supposed to turn right, but everyone was going straight. I stopped for about 5 or 10 seconds and asked one of the walkers if this was the 5K run and she said she thought so, so I started running again! All and all, this was a good effort. I think if I had been in the actual race, I could have run maybe 30 seconds faster today (a friend who usually beats me by about 30 seconds was 16:59 today). I feel like I definitely started out a little too hard as if I were behind on a 4 x mile relay leg or something and I was trying to chase everyone down. Not sure what's next but I may jump into another 5K road race next Sunday in Rocky River instead of doing the XC race in Oberlin. I'd like a good road 5K benchmark one month away from Diemer. I'll chalk today down to Mercury Retrograde.


Chasing The Ambulance

No, that's not a drug reference, just a play on the name of the 5K race I'll be running on Sunday, the Lakewood Ambulance Chase. I was originally going to do a 5K cross country race in Oberlin that day, but I just found out that that race is on May 9, so I decided to jump into a road race this weekend as I was mentally prepared to race. I've done the Ambulance Chase three times and each time I ran a personal best. In 2005, my first year running after a long layoff, I ran 18:32, which was the first time I raced sub 6:00 pace for 5K. The next year I ran 17:41, lowering my PR from 17:52 the previous fall. In 2008 I ran 17:18, which was a 4-second PR. Six weeks later I broke 17:00 for the first time at the Brian Diemer 5K, running 16:57.6. This year I'm thinking I can hit something in the 17:10-17:20 range for sure. I ran 17:24 a month ago and feel like I've made some strides since then. We'll see. If I'm in that range, I think I have a good shot at getting back under 17:00 again at Diemer. Rainy forecast, but as long as it's on the warm side, I'm cool with that.


Bunch of updates

I've been pretty lazy on this blog lately, but I promise that some more music reviews will be forthcoming. I definitely plan on picking up the deluxe edition reissue of The Stooges Raw Power that is coming out this week and I still need to get the reissue of Catherine Wheel's Ferment, which includes as bonus tracks their rare covers of Mission of Burma, Scott Walker and Husker Du. On the live front, Bella and I saw Detroit's The Sights play at the Beachland on Saturday night. They had been on hiatus for about four or five years, so it was really nice to see them again. The main singer and lead guitarist Eddie Baranek is as amazing as ever. A true showman with his James Brown moves. The band is definitely moving along from their mod and power pop roots into a more rock 'n' roll direction, not unlike how the Small Faces morphed into the Faces.

As for my running,everything is going well. I had a few days last week where my stomach was feeling kind of off, so I didn't run as much as normal, but I'm feeling really good today as I write this. Looks like that Oberlin XC race is going to be on May 9, so I think I'll jump into a 5K road race this weekend and look for some improvement on that 17:24 I ran at the end of March.

I'll sign off with a Sights video from their last full-length album The Sights, which came out in 2004. Time for a new album!


Training Update

Had a really good week of running post-Meteor 10K. Took three super easy days after the race and then on Wednesday did a mid-week long run, going two hours on the trails in Mastick Woods. Yesterday I ran a 6 mile progressive tempo and really nailed it, running 37:55 with splits of 6:54, 6:42, 6:28, 6:15, 5:59, 5:34. This is always a fun workout to do because the goal is to run each mile 10-15 seconds faster than the one before and then trying to hit the final mile at 5K effort. It teaches you to hold back early on and discipline yourself before the final drive to the finish. I call it the Kenyan run because workouts like this are a staple for many of that country's elites. Of course, they probably finish their runs at like 4:20-4:30 pace! I've been feeling really good over the past month and I think it's largely due to a slight tweak I made in my training program. I'm not doing anything different in my workouts but I have been spacing out my hard workouts so that I get two, sometimes three easy distance days in between. In the past I've been guilty of trying to cram everything into the traditional 7-day schedule, but now I've been working on a 10-day pattern where I try to do a long run, tempo workout and interval/hill workout or race, with all the filler days being easy aerobic runs. So far, so good ... I think!

Next up is a 5K cross country race in May. That will be a nice change of pace and Oberlin's XC course is really nice. I've decided that my Spring/early Summer goal is going to be to PR at the Diemer 5K in Grand Rapids on June 12, so I'm 99 percent certain that I won't be doing the USATF 10K six days before that. It's just too hard to focus on two races so close together.


Meteor 10K

Despite a much less than ideal warm up due to some unforeseen construction delays on the way to the race, I managed to run a really good 10K this weekend. My buddy Stephen, who I was staying with in Ann Arbor, was kind enough to drive me to the race and cheer me on and played superhero duty by dropping me off just in time so I could pick up my number and get in a few minutes of easy jogging before meeting him to hand off my sweats just before the race started. Knowing that I wasn't as warmed up as usual my plan was to be very conservative early on until I felt properly warmed up. I cruised the first mile in 6:00 doing the usual weave around all the people who went out to hard (it didn't help that the 5K and 10K started together). I picked it up slightly after that and rolled into the 2 mile mark at 11:54. Ideally I would have wanted to be more like 11:40 (as my pre-race goal was 36:00) but I didn't panic. I pushed it a little more the next 2 miles while holding back enough to blast the last 2 miles. That plan worked well as I hit the 4 mile mark in 23:38 before doing the last miles in 11:20. While I didn't quite hit 36:00, I ended up with 36:14, which I was extremely happy with.

While I was satisfied with my race performance, I wasn't satisfied at all by the race organization. When a major four lane road is under construction only a few miles from the race course, reducing traffic to one lane, shouldn't that be mentioned on the race website? Michigan Avenue was a zoo. Some of the people in the marathon and half-marathon ended up starting up to 15 minutes late (thank God for chip timing). Last year the 5K and 10K were on Saturday and the half-marathon and marathon were on Sunday. This year all 4 races were on the same day. There is not enough public parking in Dearborn to accommodate that and they certainly didn't rent more Porta Potties - a lot of guys were peeing in very public places!

Equally screwed up are the results. While the times are correct, currently there are a bunch of slower 5K finishers times mistakenly listed in the 10K results so while I think I know my age group result, the overall place is wrong. As of now, nationally ranked masters champions like Sam Torres (50-59 age group) and Doug Goodhue (60-69 age group) are listed as not winning their age groups on Saturday. I checked the names of some of the people ahead of them (the race website lists what races individuals registered for) and they were all 5K runners whose times got mixed into the 10K results! They did this last year too and it took a while for the results to get sorted out. Hopefully everything gets smoothed out.

A good idea might be to start the 5K at a different time and have it finish in a different location so that the overall results don't get so jumbled. Speaking of that the finish was kind of a zoo as the faster 10K runners had to weave around slow walkers. This isn't meant to be an elitist rant. I don't have any problem with anyone doing a race, but make it easy for everyone by not having finishers of one race get mixed in with people in another race. I felt like the race organizers were being greedy by trying to cram too many runners in too many races in an area that couldn't hold that many runners. At $31 for the 10K and much more for the marathon and half-marathon, I felt the runners deserved better.

On a positive closing note, the 10K course is awesome. It's scenic, virtually flat, and USATF certified. That's why I made the trip to do it. If the race organizers plan to do the four races in one day approach next year, I'll definitely give it a pass.


The Legends - Over and Over

Four albums into their career and The Legends have somehow topped their excellent debut Up Against The Legends with Over and Over. While borrowing somewhat liberally from The Jesus and Mary Chain's patented Psychocandy-era noise pop formula, these Swedes (actually as far as the recordings go, mainly the work of one man, Johan Angergard) create sunshine pop with substance. Songs like "Seconds Away" and "Always The Same" (see video above) will stay in your head for weeks. Anyone who digs The Raveonettes should investigate immediately.


Training Update

Everything has been going really well since my 5K race last Saturday. After three easy days post-race, I did a really good tempo/faster pace combo workout that I borrowed from local speedster Tim Budic. The idea is to get in a tempo at about 30 seconds give or take slower than current 5K race fitness, then jog an easy mile before doing a hard mile. I decided to do this on the track at Rocky River High School so I could carefully monitor my pace (i.e. make sure I wasn't going too fast for the tempo portion). I did 5 miles on the track in 30:36 feeling really smooth. My splits were 6:13, 6:07, 6:07, 6:06 and 6:03. Pretty much exactly 30 seconds per mile slower than my 5K race four days prior. After taking an easy mile jog (within 2 laps I was feeling pretty good again) I threw off my t-shirt (hey it was like 60F!) and hit the mile perfect going 85, 85, 84, 83 for a 5:37. This workout has me feeling really good about the Meteor 10K in Dearborn on April 10. With the hay pretty much in the barn after that workout, I did an easy 1:45 trail run (maybe 13.5 miles?) on Saturday and Tuesday I plan on doing a tempo workout that Pete Magill had me do last year, which I really liked. 6-8 sets of 800 @ tempo, 200 jog, 200 hard, 400 jog. The tempos will be really easy and the 200s will provide some turnover without overdoing it.


Moose - XYZ reissue

Moose didn't receive quite the buzz that other Brit shoegazers of the early 90's did, but they certainly deserved to. Their early singles compiled on the US release Sonny and Sam and their debut album proper XYZ contained some of the traits of the then hip dreampop scene, but their sound was more timeless than their contemporaries, as they incorporated elements of 60's country (beating Mojave 3 to the game by about four years) and 70's AM pop. Moose's main duo of Kevin McKillop and Russell Yates were definitely schooled in the art of classic songwriting. This deluxe reissue on Cherry Red Records is a must purchase since it contains the original album as well as the seven songs from Sonny and Sam. If you've never listened to Moose before I'd recommend starting with those tracks so you can get an idea of how they progressed on XYZ. Seems like a lot of the old videos have been pulled from YouTube, but hopefully the link above stays up for awhile!


A Place To Bury Strangers

I'm pretty jaded with most 'new' bands, but Brooklyn's A Place To Bury Strangers have grabbed my attention with two excellent albums and a fuzzed out noise fest of a live show that outdoes the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, and, to be honest, most of the first wave of shoegazers (I'm old kids and I saw most of the 'legends' from that era). Combining a relentless fuzz pop attack with a dark edge that brings to mind some of the heavier goth groups like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, A Place To Bury Strangers are a nice antidote to all that uber-sensitive twee pop that's coming out of the indie scene these days.


Jog Into Spring 5K

More like Jog Into Winter as it was about 25F when the gun went off! That said, it was one of those beautiful sunny days with very little wind and after jogging most of the course for my warm up, I knew this would be a fast early season race as it was virtually flat. I felt really good in my warm up and after a few strides I was anxious to go. As usual I locked right into my 5K pace instead of sprinting out like most people do, but by the mile mark I was clearly in second place, running alongside a high school runner who also went out conservatively. We hit the mile mark in 5:38 and I felt really good so I tried to push it ever so slightly more. The kid stayed with me and we sort of jockeyed back and forth and rolled into the 2 mile at 11:14. I still felt really good (where was all this sharpness 2 weeks ago?) and decided that I needed to try to pull away sooner rather than later as I didn't want it to come down to a kick at the end. I pushed hard for about a half mile and for awhile I thought I opened a gap, but the kid pulled up to me again and gapped me a little. I caught him again with about 200 to go and tried to outsprint him, but he just had more wheels than me and beat me by a second. In any case, I ended up with a 17:24, which I was really happy with. Much better Age-graded performance than the 5 miler 2 weeks ago. I was 3rd overall and first in my age group. Really enjoyed this race in Independence. The course was great and well marked and it was accurate. People who wore Garmins had it right at 3.12. That doesn't always happen with Cleveland races!

Next up is the Meteor 10K in Michigan in 2 weeks. Last year I ran 36:06 for my PR and I would REALLY like to get under 36 this year. Feeling good and motivated.


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