Though I bought all three of this late-Nineties UK group's singles, I somehow never bought their one and only self-titled album on Nude Records (home to Suede) when it came out in 1998. I was probably waiting for it to come out on a domestic label and it never did. 14 years later I realize it was my loss. Though four of the songs on Mainstream are on the early EPs, the other tracks make it well worth the purchase. I remember raving about the band's Verve-like sound in my old fanzine Vendetta (too lazy to look up what I actually wrote) and that rings true here. Verve before Richard Ashcroft & Co. added "The" to their name with a touch of Primal Scream Dixie Narco-esque southern rock 'n' soul smarts and you have a good idea of the Mainstream sound. "Rolled On Southern Blues" (see above) comes from the same family tree as Verve's "Man Called Sun" and The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" (minus Morrison's high school stoner lyrics).
Spring is almost here and as racing season approaches, it's time to make some slight tweaks to my training. I've had a pretty solid block of about 10 weeks of running since club nationals cross country in Seattle, with a lot of solid 8-10 mile runs, plus four 3-mile tempo 'tests' and two winter road races. My unannounced goal for this training phase was to get to sub 18:00 on my tempos, while staying under 90% max heart, which I did this past week with a 17:39. When I start racing I'm going to replace this workout with interval sessions such as 5 x 1K and 4 x 1200 in the same HR zone with my recoveries based on heart rate. When the HR dips below 70% max it's time to go again. I got this idea from Rich Stiller, who has helped me out immensely with training advice since last fall (read his Last Chance blog, which is linked on my blog roll). I plan to race a little more this Spring as well. I will only do intervals on weeks I'm not racing. That approach helped me get out of a big training rut last fall and I ended up finishing the season with a few strong 5Ks and a solid cross country race. I'm 90% certain my first race will be the St. Malachi 5 miler on March 10. Not the fastest course in the world but a very competitive field and it's always been a good benchmark for me in the past. I'm going to be in New Orleans for a week in late March and have found a 5K to do on March 24. It's a 5:00pm race, which suits my body clock just fine and post-race there will be beer and jambalaya! I also plan on doing a 5K in Independence on March 31 (fast course) and a 10K in Michigan on April 14 (another fast course). After this little block, I'll finalize my May/June racing plans.
Not sure where this came from but I just had quite a huge breakthrough (for me) on a tempo run. I always do these by heart rate, not allowing myself to get over 90% of my maximum heart rate reserve in order to make them 'true' threshold runs and not time trials. The last few I have done have all been in the 18:15 - 18:30 range (6:05 - 6:10 pace). Today, I ran 17:39 (5:53 pace) even though my overall beats-per-minute was actually 5 bpm lower than on my previous best 3 mile tempo. It took me a mile to get up to 85% and I was able to cruise between 85-90% for the rest of the workout without slowing down. Lately my tempos have been slight positive splits since I'm quite diligent about not letting my heart rate get over 90% even if that means slowing down, but today I was able to run very even, staying in my target zone. Splits were: 6:00, 5:49, 5:50. The last time I was running this well was about three years ago when I was sub 17:00 for 5K. I'm hoping this is a good sign. If I can ever run even half as smooth as NCAA cross country champion and 5K record holder Lawi Lalang (above), I'll be back to my sub 17 ways.
The title of this album is very misleading. Though Learning To Walk compiles the three Rough Trade EPs Liverpool's Boo Radleys released before their 1992 Creation Records debut album, Everything's Alright Forever, the material here is hardly a baby steps collection -- in fact some of the tunes, such as "The Finest Kiss" (see video above), "Kaleidoscope," and "Everybird" even surpass the highlights from Everything as far as epic shoegaze rock 'n' roll goes. Other gems on Learning To Walk include stunning covers of New Order's "True Faith" (retitled "Boo Faith") and Love's "Alone Again Or." An awesome look at the early days of one of the UK's most underrated groups ever. In addition to Learning To Walk and Everything's Alright Forever, no Anglophile's record collection should be without Giant Steps (1993) and Wake Up! (1995).
I've recently incorporated a minor tweak into my training routine, which already seems to help. I got the idea from an article by Marc Bloom on ESPN about the hugely successful North Shore (NY) High School Girls distance program coached by Neal Levy. Unlike many programs that are very interval-oriented, Levy has his runners incorporate strides at the end of runs on some days and run hilly courses on other days. The only fast stuff they do are their races! This quote sums it up:
The North Shore training mix is a peon to old-school thinking. It’s short on razzmatazz and long on development. It’s not the stuff of clinics, not if you’re looking for the new hot workout. The basics, through summer, fall, winter, etc., as Levy said, are: (1) Run 10 days straight, then take a day off; (2) run hills three times a week in a 65-minute road run in which you do 10 minutes on the flat, 45 minutes on a hilly route (pushing the up hills, easing off on the down hills), then finish with 10 minutes on the flats; (3) other days run 45 to 65 minutes on the flat followed by 8 x 30-second strides; (4) do one longer run of 90 minutes in the 10-day cycle.
With that approach in mind I've started to incorporate 6 x 30 seconds at 3K/5K effort near the end of my easy 8 milers in the neighborhood (very flat terrain) and today was my first stab at a hill run where I repeated a hilly 2 mile segment in the metro park four times, hitting 8 hills ranging from about 150 - 300 meters. I didn't sprint the hills but pushed into the higher end of my aerobic hear rate zone trying to focus on form and stay smooth. Unlike the North Shore gals, I will continue with my regular tempo runs though as I do not race near as often as high school and college runners do. As I tend to take a few days off each week my ideal would be two hill runs, two flat runs with strides and a race, tempo or interval workout for my hard workout.
My training has been going okay since my Feb. 4 race. Nothing too eventful other than some easy mileage. My legs have been a little tired lately, so I've started to incorporate some strides into some of my runs to get a little snap back. I had thought about racing another 5K on Feb. 18, but I think a busy month of work has caught up with me and the fact that everyone in my office seems to be sick (take those sick days people!). Today I did a 3 mile tempo test on my standard Lakewood Park course. Conditions were so so. A bit too windy for my liking and there were three or four stretches on the mile loop that were packed snow/ice, which got old by the second and third laps. Complaining aside, I ran 18:34 (6:11 pace) staying in the 85-90% zone for my heart rate reserve. Effortwise probably pretty similar to the 18:16 I ran last month in ideal conditions. I plan on doing another test effort or two before kicking into my Spring race season in mid-March.
In honor of the 'generic' blog title, I give you something by Public Image Limited from their 1986 release entitled "Album".
This is my current lineup of training and racing shoes. On the left is the Pearl Izumi Kissaki, a lightweight trainer. Dead center is the Pearl Izumi Streak 2, which I use for races and fast workouts like tempo runs and intervals. On the right is the New Balance 890, another lightweight trainer, which I alternate with the Kissaki on my easy 'normal' runs. I also have a pair of cross country spikes that I wear in about 2-3 races a year. All are highly recommended shoes if you have a neutral footstrike. My Streak 2's are starting to get a bit beat up so I'll probably get another pair of those in the Spring. I like the new black color scheme better than the current lime green one.
As my post title is a play on Morrissey, here is something by the man:
Heavy Stereo might be a footnote in Britpop history, but they deserved better. Signed to Creation after Oasis, Heavy Stereo were probably too "rock 'n' roll" for some of the indie kids (see the Flying V on the cover of their debut single "Sleep Freak"). Too bad. In addition to "Sleep Freak," which is a nice glammy update to Lennon's "Instant Karma," the group released three more singles and an excellent album Deja Voodoo. As most Britpop fans know, when Heavy Stereo broke up, frontman Gem Archer joined the Mark 2 Oasis lineup that also featured Andy Bell from Ride. Archer and Bell are currently in Beady Eye with Liam Gallagher. I'll leave you with another 'gem', the trippy B-Side "Wonderfools" from the second Heavy Stereo single "Smiler".
These were on the Friends of Portage Lake Facebook page. Not sure who took them!
Taking a pre-race Groundhog photo!
Meeting the mayor
My friend Coulter pointed me to an amazing recent interview with Marion vocalist Jaime Harding on NME.com conducted by Luke Lewis. I had always wondered what happened to the Northern English glam meets post punk outfit who hit it big in the UK in the mid-Nineties with their stellar 1996 debut album This World and Body. Lewis' interview provides some amazing insight into the highs and lows of rock 'n' roll stardom. I had heard that Harding had numerous drug problems, but nothing to this extent. Fortunately, the article has a happy ending. Harding is clean and the band's original lineup has reformed to play a series of UK dates in April. If you can find a copy of This World and Body, grab it up. Anyone who loves The Smiths/Morrissey and Suede will dig it.
I was joking that the Groundhog was wrong after he called for six more weeks of winter, but he got his revenge on us this morning. At least on those of us who ventured south of Cleveland to Portage Lakes for the Chase Your Shadow 5K. It was 40 and nice when I left my house, but looked like this when we arrived:
The roads were in pretty bad shape too. Very slushy and packed snow/ice in some spots when I did my warm up. While I wasn't expecting a PR in February, I knew from workouts that I was pretty fit so I decided that my pre-race plan would be to pace it like a cross country race and just deal with the elements as they came. This was the scene as we got ready to go over to the starting line:
The race wasn't as bad as I thought it would be though. The first mile had a decent gradual elevation and I was able to work my way into third by then and I could tell that I was gaining on the guy in second but it would take some work to get there. Just after the mile we looped around and came back and I was able to take advantage of the net downhill mile two to catch the guy in second with about 3/4 of a mile to go. I battled it out as best as I could over the last bit with the youngster I caught but he was able to break me with about 600 to go and though I finished strong I didn't quite have it to go with him. In any case I was third overall in 18:07, which translates to 5:50 pace on the nose. My pacing was pretty even. I was around 11:35 at 2 miles and didn't slow down too much in the hilly section of the final mile, so all and all a solid showing for my first race of 2012. As you can see I'm pretty happy post-race after a warm meal!
A good start to the year. For the next month or two, I'll continue to run mostly easy mileage at my 60-70% heart rate zone with a few tempos thrown in before getting into some more race pace specific stuff.