Tuesday, December 31, 2013

4 miles a day

I started 2013 with one goal for my running.  I wanted to average 4 miles a day.  I know it doesn't sound like much but given the run of injuries and surgeries over the last decade, it was an admirable goal.  I had my doubts, especially after my calf injury following the Naples half marathon in January.  I missed the better part of a month dealing with that one.

It was a slow slog to catch the average.  I didn't get their until a week ago.  A trio of 38 mile weeks followed by a 44 mile week did the trick.  The 5 miler I did this afternoon put me at 1475 for the year, a mere 15 miles over the goal.

The good news is that I'm starting to shed the pounds.  I hit 180 pounds for the first time since January.  If I can get to 175 in three weeks I think I can run Naples faster than I did last year.  The goal is 1:50, not fast, but certainly not awful.

The bigger question is whether I can push myself to get under 24 minutes for 5K by February and under 23 by April.  That one seems like a tall order.  But that's the goal for this year, a run to 22 minute plus 5K's!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh Mercy

Five years ago I started to listening to music when I ran.  Criticize it, ridicule it, and abuse me for caving in to this creature comfort when I run, but it helps with the alone time.  I hear things on songs that I never noticed while having discs blasted at me over the stereo.

I listen to a lot of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and The Grateful Dead.  But it was a run in the last week when I punched up Bob Dylan and just started to listening to album after album spanning the last 30 years of his work.  When "Oh Mercy" came on, it was like a bolt of lightning at hit me all over again.

When I first got this album in 1989 it was like an euphony.  Bob Dylan was still great.  He hadn't made a truly great album since 1979's "Slow Train Coming," the epic signaling of Dylan's full on embrace of Jesus Christ.  Despite the religiosity of Slow Train it is a great album.  But it still doesn't measure of to 1975's "Blood on the Track," arguably Dylan's masterpiece, which is saying a lot.

After Slow Train, Dylan showed flashes of brilliance throughout the 80's.  The first half of the decade was dedicated to his new found faith.  Truly great songs were few and far between.  "Every Grain of Sand" sticks out to me during this period. 

As he began to raise himself out of his religious haze with "Infidels" he had the material to match his best works of the 70's.  The opening tune "Jokerman" makes it worth the price of admission.  Yet, the songs Dylan left off is maddening.  Mark Knopfler had helped Dylan craft a masterpiece, but had to leave before the work was finished.  Inexplicably, incredible songs like "Blind Willie McTell" and "Foot of Pride" were left off the album.

Then the quality fell of precipitously.  "Empire Burlesque" has a couple of nice tunes but "Knocked Out Loaded" was a complete stinker.  "Down in the Grove" which followed, was horrendous.  Dylan had always rebounded from the occasional clinker but he was marching into irrelevancy.

He writes about hooking up with Daniel Lanois to produce his 26th studio album, "Oh Mercy."  It's worth the reading about the making of this record in his autobiography, "Chronicles, Volume 1."  The production value is first rate, the songs are even stronger.  Lanois whipped Dylan into shape.  Each of the 10 songs on this disc are a gem.  Some are instant classics.

Largely because everyone had written off Dylan, I don't believe this album got the just critical acclaim it deserved.  It didn't help that the work that followed, "Under a Red Sky" and the discs of covers, "Good as I've Been to You" and "World Gone Wrong," weren't "great." I think "Oh Mercy" was seen as a freak, a one-off, that Dylan had lost his mojo.

I challenge you to listen to "Oh Mercy."  It just comes at you in waves, from "Everything is Broken" to "Man in the Long Black Coat," to one of his greatest songs of longing, "What Good am I?"  It just rolls over you.

I don't know how or why Dylan lost his muse from 1990 to 1997.  I'd like to think the cover albums helped him re-discover his roots.  He then reconnected with Lanois and the classic "Time Out of Mind" rocked the world.  Dylan likes to discount Lanois layered, somewhat swampy technique, but I think Lanois helped him put him back on the path of making music in a way that suited his world weary voice. 

"Time Out of Mind" put Dylan firmly back on the road to relevancy.  You certainly can't argue with the quality of work that has followed over the last 16 years.  But that seed was planted in 1989's "Oh Mercy," perhaps the most important album of the last 30 years of his career.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Slow It Goes

Saturday morning I awoke and set off for Cape Coral for a decidedly humid 5K race.  Rotary Park was the setting for Florida's Senior Games, a race I have done twice before with less than stellar results.  The last time I ran this race was in 2008 on a bad hamstring.  I ran my slowest 5K ever in 25:13. 

Looking back through my running logs to research my past performances at this race I could see the slow, awful, efforts as I came back to running after a life threatening illness in 2004.  My mileage in 2005 was in the 600 mile range and 2006 wasn't much better.  2007 saw me nearly hit 1,000 miles and I ran my first Senior Games 5K that year in 22:47.

I went into this particular race knowing that breaking 24:00 would be a tough nut to crack.  The McMillan calculator showed that based on my 51 minute performance at 10K the week before, 24:33 would be the result.  I ran 24:30.
I wish I could say it was a hard run.  It wasn't.  I made it through the first mile in 7:37 feeling pretty good and thinking, maybe, just maybe I can hit 24.  But I couldn't reach down and force myself to hurt.  I slowly but surely allowed myself to fade.  The fact that the field was much smaller than previous years allowed my dawdling time to grab an age group 2nd.

As one of my blog followers pointed out, weight loss is the only thing that's going to return my speed.  10 pounds would be worth a good 90 seconds off my 5K time.  I've got a month before my next race.  I plan to keep my mileage in the 30 to 40 range and add some intensity.  I might even do some long intervals.  I want to break 23 minutes by February.  That's the goal at least. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Favorite Year

I was late to the game when it came to the great Peter O'Toole.  There are a dozen or so actors that I absolutely adore, DeNiro, Pacino, Pitt, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy and on and on and on.  I had seen "Goodbye Mr. Chips."  It was a maudlin remake of a World War II classic.  O'Toole owns the movie.

But O'Toole never really endeared myself to his artistry until I saw "My Favorite Year."  I didn't even see it in a theatre but on AMC or something like it.  The movie is one of my guilty pleasures.  O'Toole owns this send up of a Errol Flynn type, set in the world of a parody of "Your Show of Shows," a live 1950's television comedy show.  Drunken and outrageous, Peter O'Toole steals your heart in this role.
It wasn't until the 1990's that I actually saw "Lawrence of Arabia" on TMC.  It's the best movie made in the 1960's, period, just as Godfather II is the best movie made in the 1970's.  It may be the best bit of acting on the big screen I've ever seen.  He was nominated for an Oscar, but he failed to win.  In fact O'Toole was nominated 8 times and never won a golden statue. 

Even little movies that he made later in life, like "Venus," is charming.  O'Toole plays a smarmy, aging actor, lusting after a young, hustling, nymphet.  In a lot of ways O'Toole was a lot like Clark Gable in that he could just play himself.  But he was so much more than that.  "Lawrence of Arabia," his first major role in a motion picture, spoke volumes to that.

I'm sad tonight that Peter O'Toole is gone.  He was part of the old Hollywood that gave us Olivier and Burton.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Incredible Running Doughboy

An old running compadre from Lawrence used to share a nickname with me.  Paul Boone and I would address each other as Doughboy.  I got the belly first, but Paul followed a couple of years later.  But even back then with the extra pounds we could still both run pretty darn fast.  The belly is beginning to take its toll.

I ran my first "serious" race in almost 11 months this morning.  It was a race I had run a couple of years ago and enjoyed, despite the fact you to traverse some pretty long, steep bridges, not once, but twice.  The River Run 10K is takes runners across the beautiful Calooshatchie River.  The price that comes with living in paradise is that it can be a little toasty, even in December.  Don't let the long sleeves full you, by race time at 8 a.m. it was getting warm and humid.

I tried the same tactic I used the last time I ran this race.  I went out carefully know we would hit the first bridge about 1.5 miles into the race.  I was about :20 slower for my first mile than I had been in 2011 and thought, okay, I can hold this.  I was fine going up the bridge the first time and proceeded to pick off people.  But I could feel my pace was lagging.  By the time I hit the bridge the second time I was one hurting puppy.  I was still catching people but I just couldn't get a good rhythm. 

I never looked at my watch after the first mile and was merely hoping to break 50 minutes.  I ran 51 flat, 4:30 slower than what I managed the last time I ran this race.  The lack of speed is due in part because I just haven't pushed myself in most of my runs.  The other problem is my weight.  I'm about 8 to 10 pounds heavier than I was in 2011.

I was stressed out in 2011 because of my job or lack thereof.  The stress suppressed my appetite, plus I was training a lot better.  I can lose the weight.  And I am slowly adding more miles and plan to add some intensity.  The most important thing is I wasn't really tired when I finished.  That tells me I might be able to run the half marathon I have planned in January a minute or so faster than I did last year.

I have a 5K on tap next week.  I am going to try and take it out a lot harder than I did today and hold on for dear life.  I've got to learn to hurt again.  You know, no pain, no gain, and maybe I can ungain some of these lbs!