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!


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