Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. Matt, Tricia and the boys drove up the night before and then Matt, Trish and I started T-Day off by running the Wild Turkey 5-Miler in Salem. I've been battling this chest cold and cough all week, so I wasn't able to run Tuesday. I just wanted to get a decent run in, so I just ran comfortably for the most part and picked it up a little in the last mile, finishing in just under 39 minutes. I felt okay during the run, although my legs tightened up right afterward. Matt and Trish ran together; it was her second road race and first 5-miler and they came in at 52 minutes, about eight minutes faster than they had hoped for. It was a nice morning to run, with temps in the 30s. I saw a lot of folks I knew running.

Afterwards, we had the traditional turkey dinner downstairs at my mother-in-law's, and then headed up to NH later in the afternoon to have dinner with my mom. It was tough to drive after eating all that stuff, and even tougher to drive home. I was exhausted. But it was good to spend time with Mom.

Yesterday, Deb, Tricia and Susan got up at 3:30 and ventured out to do their annual Black Friday shopping. I don't know how they do it every year. They had some horror stories about battling the hordes at Wal-Mart, which was a total zoo. Susan got whacked in the face by a box and it was just chaos. But nothing like the scene in New York, where some poor W-M employee was trampled to death, like a scene out of that Who concert in Cincinnati in '79. Meanwhile, two dudes shot each other to death in a Toys R Us in California. All over holiday shopping. I just don't get it.

Matt and I got out of the house later in the day to see Role Models, the first movie I've seen in a theater in three years. Usually I just rent them from Netflix. The last one I saw (not counting the crappy Veggie Tales movie we took the kids to last year in NJ) was Jarhead. At any rate, Role Models was pretty damn funny. I recommend it.

Leftovers:
  • I'm still in shock over the massive terrorist attacks in Mumbai, where the latest death is 183. I was watching it all unfold on Wednesday night and it was amazing how such a complex plan could be pulled off, with coordinated attacks on 10 different locations. Just insane.
  • The worst-kept secret in hockey finally comes to fruition today when the Leafs announce that Brian Burke is their new GM. He's going to have a huge job to do to turn things around with that team and get it on track to win its first Stanley Cup since the year I was born. And he's going to have to do it under intense media scrutiny. Good luck to him. He's gonna need it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Philadelphia Freedom

Here I sit, two days before Thanksgiving, watching the rain outside and hacking my brains out. But two days ago, I was in Philadelphia running my 10th marathon and freezing my butt off. I finished in 3:52, which is not the sub-3:40 I had hoped for.

We drove down to NJ Friday and stayed at Matt and Tricia's before the four of us headed down to Philly on Saturday; the kids stayed with Tricia's parents and were excited to see "Madagascar 2." We hit Philly, checked in, met up with Deb and Matt's dad Harry and then went to the race expo. It was pretty small compared to the bigger ones, but had the usual vendors and such. We then hung out back at the hotel for a while before meeting Deb, Matt and Tricia's college buddy Chris and his wife Stacy, who was also running the marathon. We had a great meal at an Italian place. It was brutally cold and windy out, so I was rethinking what I'd wear for the race: I settled on wearing a sweatshirt over my technical shirt and old sweatpants over my shorts that I could ditch at some point. Everybody was planning to get a couple of drinks afterward, but Stacy and I both decided to just stay in at our respective hotels and rest up. Besides, I had a chest cold that flared up conveniently on Tuesday and didn't want to make that any worse than it had to be. I went back to the room, drank a lot of water, and watched "The Bourne Ultimatum" until 10, when I went to bed. Deb got back at 11; I had only been asleep for about 20 minutes and had a fitful night of sleep after that, between the coughing and the nervousness.

I got up at 5 and got ready for the 7 a.m. start. I was unable to clear the bomb bays, if you will, which was not a good sign. I was hoping not to have to use a porta potty if I could help it. Matt and I were heading over to Stacy's hotel at 6, where Chris would give us a ride to the start. Matt was running the half marathon, which started at the same time. We could only get within a few blocks before we had to get out and walk the last several; it was bone-chillingly cold. I went to get in line for a porta potty but the line was so long I just decided to get into my corral for the start. I moved up to where the 3:40 pace group was standing and planned to follow them all the way.

The beginning of the race wound its way through some narrow streets before opening up a bit. After the first mile I was already sweating like crazy from the sweatshirt and had planned to give it to Deb when I saw her, but I didn't see her at mile 1 and so kept it on. Saw her at 6 and ditched the sweatshirt and my hat, but kept the pants on because I didn't want to fall too far behind the pace group. I stuck with them but noticed around mile 11 that I was struggling a bit, which was surprising because that shouldn't happen until at least around mile 20. I made the turn at the half and headed out, but mile 14 was a hill and it just killed me. I realized I couldn't keep up with the pace group and stopped to ditch my sweatpants. I started running again and hoped to do the best I could. At mile 15, Stacy caught up to me, ran with me for a bit and then kept going; she ended up finishing in 3:35 and qualifying for Boston.

The sun was out, but it was still pretty damn cold for anyone standing still. At the water stations, all the spilled water froze and made things pretty treacherous for us as we made our way through. I saw a couple of people wipe out.

I kept chugging along and got to Manayunk, which was where the race turned around at mile 20 and headed back toward downtown Philly. As I headed back, I got a side stitch and had to walk a bit. I dealt with those on and off for a few miles before finally feeling okay. Just before mile 24, the 3:50 pace group caught up to me, so I decided to hitch my wagon to them and follow them in. I felt good and with a mile to go, I pushed it and ran ahead to hopefully finish under 3:50. I came in strong but finished at 3:52, which can only lead me to believe that the 3:50 pace dude was behind pace. Oh, well. I was just glad to be done. Caught with Deb, Matt and Tricia afterwards. Matt ended up running a 2:12 in the half.

I just didn't have enough energy to keep up the pace I had hoped to; I really believe I could have broken 3:40. Someday. But the marathon was great and it seemed like a lot of people had PRs this year. I wish we had more time to hang out in Philly; seems like a fun town.

Next up, I'm trying to get a number for Boston in the spring through my running club. I don't expect to set a PR there, not with those hills.

We drove back Sunday night after picking up the kids in NJ, getting home at 9. My cold has gotten worse, but I still have to go to work because I've got too much to do in the next two days before T-giving. Still planning to run the Salem 5-miler on Thursday, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Completely Conspicuous Episode 66: Midlife Crisis

Somehow three weeks passed by since the last CC, so I wanted to get one done before we headed down to Philly. So here you go, a nearly cough-free episode. Download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:
- The midlife crisis
- Nebraska's controversial safe haven law
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:
- Will Currie & the Country Church and Sloan - Push Pins
- Prima Donna - Demoted
- The Secret Machines - Atomic Heels
- Bloc Party - Price of Gasoline

Promo:
- New England Podcasting.

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes and Podcast Pickle podcast directories. Subscribe and write a review!

The Will Currie & the Country Church and Sloan song is a one-off single by the two Canadian acts available for free download here.

The Secret Machines song is on their self-titled album on TSM Recordings. The song from Bloc Party is on the album Silent Alarm on Vice Records. Both songs are courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network.

The Prima Donna song is on their new album After Hours on Acetate Records. The song was provided by IODA Promonet:

After HoursPrima Donna
"Demoted" (mp3)
from "After Hours"
(Acetate Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Buy at Napster
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Puretracks
Buy at mTraks
More On This Album



The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of Mark Campbell.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Be Aggressive

Woo hoo! Long weekend time. It's not a traditional long weekend in that most people have to work tomorrow, but I took it off because we're heading down for the Philly Marathon. Actually, we're going to NJ first to stay over at Matt and Tricia's tomorrow night, then leave the kids with Tricia's mom so the four of us can drive to Philly Saturday morning. We'll hit the expo and pick up our race packets (Matt's doing the half) and then get some dinner before calling it a night. The races start at 7 a.m. Sunday, so we're going to have to get up super early to get ready. Temps look like they'll be in the low 40s for a high, which means at the start it should be in the high 20s or low 30s. That's when you wear stuff you can throw away once the race starts.

Physically, I feel pretty good. I did my last pre-marathon run today, 3 miles. Although I was a little bummed when I headed out and my right ankle was bothering me; it actually was because our comforter weighs about 2 metric tons and kinda forced me to sleep with my right foot bent to the side. Not sure how I'm going to deal with that tonight because it's so damn cold up there. At any rate, I walked a little before just making myself run and sure enough, it was fine after about a minute. Other than that, the only other concern is some chest congestion that conveniently showed up two days ago. Hopefully it won't be a full-fledged cough by Sunday; it shouldn't affect my lung capacity too much (knock on skull).

My third running column was published today, this time around focusing on cold weather running, appropriately enough.

What's the frequency, Kenneth?:
  • So gas prices have been dropping like a rock around here. I filled up at $1.95 per gallon in Salem yesterday and I've already seen it for $1.83 at another place. Gas prices are lower than they've been in four years. I wonder if they'll approach the magical dollar mark that they were around in the '90s. Unfortunately, the stock market is plummeting at an even faster rate. It's getting ugly, folks.
  • Apparently, hell has frozen over, because Guns N' Roses' long-awaited "Chinese Democracy" album is coming to Best Buy shelves on Sunday. No, really, it is. I'd heard some of the songs over the last few years when they were leaked online, but today, I listened to the entire album, which is streaming at GNR's Myspace page. On first listen, it was okay, not great. You can definitely hear the kitchen-sink approach Axl took, with a real glossy production and lots of bells and whistles. EW has a nice collection of reviews, which have been mostly positive. But for my money, what Axl should have done was brought back Izzy, Slash and Duff and made another balls-out rocker like Appetite for Destruction, which is one of the greatest hard rock albums ever made. If you've got a little time, check out this excellent and lengthy article on the long, twisted journey that Axl Rose went on while he tried to make this album. Just nuts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

High Voltage

I spent last night digging my last rock show until '09 (barring a last-minute rock emergency): The Eagles of Death Metal at the Paradise. It took me about 35 minutes to find a parking spot because of the Comics Come Home benefit down the street at Agganis Arena. I met up with Bob and we had a few beverages before checking out the opening band, The Duke Spirit, who were really good. EoDM came on around 10:30 and played for nearly two hours, just ripping it up with their patented brand of sleaze-rock. The show was sold out and we were struck by the near 50-50 split of men and women, which is unusual for most rock shows. Frontman Jesse Hughes was a force (Josh Homme, who is the second half of the band in the studio, doesn't tour with EoDM); the four-piece featured erstwhile Queens of the Stone Age members Dave Catching on guitar and Joey Castillo on drums. They played songs from all three of their albums and threw in a couple of choice covers: "Brown Sugar" by the Stones and "New Rose" by the Damned. No ballads or down-tempo stuff for these guys, just a whole lot of American good rock, as Briggy would say. Got home just before 1:30.

It was a busy day. Hannah had her first indoor soccer game in the morning. They played at Soccer Etc. on the little field. The game's a lot faster indoors, but Hannah had fun. She even played goalie for a little while and did well, but came out when she jammed her finger. It's weird to be in there in the morning; I used to play games there late night about 12 or 13 years ago.

I got my last long run in before the marathon, a fast 8-miler. Then I took Hannah to a classmate's birthday party at Monster Mini-Golf on Route 1 in Danvers. It's like Chuck E. Cheese, but with monsters and mini golf. Total sensory overload: The whole place is glow in the dark, with music cranking, arcade games, kids all over, and of course, mini golf. Hannah had fun. Today, I'm taking both girls to another party on our street. The fun never ends.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cheap Thrills

Happy Saturday. I was really dragging the last couple of days due to lack of sleep, but I'm feeling good now. Last night, I joined Briggy, OJ and Amy, and Lee at the Miracle of Science in Cambridge for our annual Black Friday celebration, marking the 7th year since we were all laid off from Webnoize. It's hard to believe it's been that long, although in some respects it feels like it was even longer ago: During that time, I was commuting into the city, didn't have kids, had just gotten married and bought a house. I started that job before George W. Bush was president. Damn.

Tonight, I'm meeting up with my buddy Bob to see the Eagles of Death Metal at the Paradise. Should be a lot of fun. A couple of other friends of ours wanted to join us, but the show's sold out.

The reason I didn't get much sleep was because I was watching late-night football and hockey. Monday night, I stayed up watching a game I normally wouldn't give two craps about: San Francisco vs. Arizona. But I went 13-0 in my office football pool through Sunday; alas, so did one other guy, so it came down to the Monday night game to break the tie. I needed Zona to win by 10 and sure enough, they only won by 5. So I got nothing. Tuesday night, I watched the Leafs-Calgary game, Wednesday I was out until 1 at hockey, and Thursday night, I watched the Pats-Jets and Leafs-Oilers games simultaneously until midnight. Funny enough, even with the trip to Cambridge last night, I was home and in bed earlier than any other night this week.

T-minus eight days until the Philly Marathon. I'm feeling good, although I took a puck off the skate Wednesday night that left a bone bruise on my left foot. Fortunately, it was on the side and didn't bother me when I ran yesterday. Right now, the forecast is calling for temps in the low 40s next Sunday, which means it should be in the 30s when the race starts at 7 a.m. I'm a little disappointed that we'll have to take off right after the race to head back home, but we both have to work Monday and the kids have school.

Quick and to the point:
  • Speaking of the Leafs, they've been fun to watch so far this year. Ron Wilson has a speedy, hard-working team that has been tough to play in almost every game. But that could change soon if Brian Burke joins the team as GM; he just quit his Anaheim job this week and could be in Toronto soon. He's more of a proponent of big, bruising teams and tough guys, which the Leafs have in short supply right now. It seems like every game, an opponent is taking liberties with one of their players. It wouldn't surprise me to see a lot of changes in a hurry. If he can get them contending for a Cup in the next few years, I'm all for it.
  • So Obama reportedly has been talking to Hillary Clinton about becoming Secretary of State. Interesting.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Down the Line

'Twas a busy weekend. Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the final Gutter Twins show of 2008, and possibly forever. Greg Dulli, Mark Lanegan and the guys played an excellent 70-minute set at the Paradise. It was the second time I saw them this year, having caught them back in March at the same club. This time around, the main floor of the club filled up, but the balconies were closed due to lackluster ticket sales, I assume. It was a good turnout considering it was a busy concert evening with better-known acts playing in the area: AC/DC selling out the Gahden, the Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers playing the Orpheum, and Nine Inch Nails in Worcester. Unlike last time when I was right in front of the stage, I opted for a booth to the right where I could see everything but have a little space to myself and a ledge to lean on.

Dulli announced straightaway that this was the last GT show and later profusely thanked each member of the band for his contributions to the album and tour. None of the band members was smoking, which was a marked departure from the last show (and the Twilight Singers gig with pretty much the same lineup in '06). I had hoped the show would be at least 90 minutes, which would have brought it up to 11 p.m., but it wasn't to be. That was the only disappointment. Both Dulli and Lanegan were in fine voice, and the band was tight, with highlights including "Front Street" from their Saturnalia album, "Down the Line" from their new EP of mostly covers, Adorata, and a smokin' version of "Change Has Come" from Lanegan's old band, the Screaming Trees. Great stuff. Dulli indicated that he was done touring for a while, with his farewell of "See you in a couple of years." I've read that he's going back into the studio to possibly work on a new Twilight Singers album while Lanegan will go back to his many side projects. All of which means more great music. Neither of those guys can do musical wrong in my book.

A special note deserves to be made of opening act Afterhours, an Italian band that Dulli has worked with in the past. They're pretty huge in Italy and seeing them live, it was easy to understand. These guys are a terrific live act, with plenty of rock star swagger and the chops to back it up. They play a brand of soulful hard rock not unlike that of Dulli's old band, The Afghan Whigs. They have an English-language album out on One Little Indian that I downloaded off of eMusic this morning and it's quite good. Worth checking out.

So earlier in the day yesterday, I headed out to Andover to run the Larry Robinson 10-miler (not named after the NHL Hall of Famer). It was a great day for a road race, sunny and cool in the 50s. Alas, my stomach didn't agree and bothered me for the entire event, but I was still able to maintain a good 8-minute/mile pace. All was well until I passed mile 9, when I noticed the 10-15 runners in front of me taking a left turn at an intersection. I was under the impression from last year that we were supposed to go straight to the finish at Andover High School, but seeing everybody take the turn, I assumed that they knew where they were going. Bad assumption. As it turned out, the cop directing traffic at that corner told one of the runners to go left and then everyone followed. Good thing there wasn't a cliff there or we would have all gone off it like lemmings. There were a couple of killer hills that I didn't remember from last year (although I did remember the finish being hilly, so I just kept going) and they weren't easy to take with the whole stomach thing going on. It wasn't long before we realized that we were off-track, but we had to keep going. Eventually we were able to loop around and come into the finish from the opposite direction, essentially doing an 11-mile race. In the official results, you'll notice that those of us who ran the wrong way had a special "OFF COURSE" designation added to our times. It didn't bother me too much, because I'm in taper mode for my marathon and was actually supposed to run 13 miles yesterday, so another one was no big deal. But it wasn't any fun to run an additional, hilly mile when all I wanted to do was find a bathroom. Well, at least it didn't happen during a marathon.

Okay, time to eat some dinner.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Anything 'Cept the Truth

So...we've got a new president. Yeah, I know the election was a few days ago, but I haven't had a chance to blog since then. I was glad it didn't come down to some hanging chads in Florida or Ohio. Hopefully Obama will surround himself with good people on both sides of the aisle and get right to work bringing about some of that change he's been talking about for a couple of years. Because we sure need it. I've been around long enough to know that campaign promises don't mean squat. Obama's proven he can run a hell of a campaign. Now let's see how he runs a government.

Today would have been my dad's 68th birthday. Hard to believe he's been gone for 12 years now. Sadly, he's becoming more and more of a distant memory; it's not like I've forgotten him or anything, but it's just that so much has happened in my life since then. I will say he taught me my most valuable lessons...by showing me what not to do. The way I lead my life is exactly the opposite from how he led his, which isn't to say he was a bad man. He just made a lot of mistakes and in the end, they killed him. But hey, let's not dwell on that now. Wherever you are, Dad, happy birthday.

My second running column ran in the paper today. I focused on the debate over whether runners should use headphones. I've already gotten a lot of good response from folks (both friends and people I don't know), so that's encouraging. My photo ran with the column today (only in the print version).

Only two weeks until we head to Philly for the marathon. Knock on wood, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm supposed to run 13 this weekend, but I'm going to do a 10-mile race in Andover on Sunday morning instead.

Kibbles and bits:
  • Commercials by the major automakers in recent years have usually taken a classic rock song and beaten it to death for months at a time. The latest example from Toyota is even more annoying than usual because it takes an old Fixx song, "Saved By Zero" (which I liked), and has an unknown singer atonally singing the line. This is bad enough, but the worst part is the ad runs probably 15 times during a football game, so you're just bombarded by it. Even Lily was making fun of it the other day. And apparently it has engendered major hate from all corners.
  • In a story that has to be already in the works as a movie idea, two kids from India won a talent contest and are now training for a pitching tryout in front of major league scouts. The guy who discovered them is Barry Bonds' manager, who you figure has a lot of time on his hands these days.
  • Runners face many hazards on the road, usually from inattentive or obnoxious drivers. But you don't often hear about a rabid fox biting a runner, let alone the runner continuing to run another five miles with the damn thing clamped down on her arm. Insane in the membrane.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Weapon of Choice

Holy crap, it's Election Day. It's been a wild ride, that's for sure. I'm going to go vote before work. I'm expecting lines. Should be an interesting night watching the returns. Hopefully everything will be nice and above board.

Hannah's got the day off because her school is being used as a polling place. They never used to give the kids the day off, but last year an old dude accidentally drove into a school, so now it's a safety thing. Speaking of which, last night an elderly fellow drove right onto the tracks in Salem and crashed into a commuter train. He was walking around afterwards and sent to the hospital as a precaution, but then died unexpectedly there. Very strange.

The weekend was a busy one. The girls had a blast going trick-or-treating Friday night; we stuck to the four dead-end streets in our neighborhood and they got a ton of candy. Need to get it out of here before I eat it all.

On Saturday, I ran my last 20-miler before Philly. It was a good run. Now I'm in taper mode. I'm running a 10-mile race in Andover this weekend and then will probably run another 10 the weekend after that, and then it'll be race day. Congrats to our friend Joe, who ran his first marathon in New York on Sunday, and to our friend Lauren, who had another kick-ass finish with a 3:35.

Saturday night was fun as Doobs had some of the old Webnoize crew over for a Drive-In movie night featuring bad TV movies from the '70s. We saw "Trapped," a 1973 thrilla starring James Brolin as a dude who gets stuck in a department store with a bunch of psycho guard Dobermans, and "Bad Ronald," the creepy tale of a dork who kills a girl and then has to hide in the walls of a house and...ah crap, trust me, it was all kinds of SBIG. Doobs also had some cool old trailers and "Let's go down to the lobby" shorts. Fun stuff.

Aiight, time to go to work. More later...