Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Megalomania” — Black Sabbath (1976)

blgsabbmegaloI hide myself inside the shadows of shame
The silent symphonies were playing their game
My body echoed to the dreams of my soul
This God is something that I could not control…

Told you I’d be back with some Sabbath :)

Black Sabbath’s 1976 album Sabotage is probably their greatest album with the WORST album cover. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are hanging about in full 70s leisure wear and pornstaches aplenty, while Ozzy looks like a goofball in that kimono and why on EARTH is Bill Ward wearing red tights?? I haven’t the slightest. It’s too bad, because even with such a lousy cover the album is fantastic. Sabotage is my favorite Sabbath album, and I’d argue that it’s their best (at least, the best of the classic Ozzy line-up). But as I’m oft to repeat, that’s a knish for another deli…

My favorite cut on the album is the Side 1 closer Megalomania, a dark, gloomy, haunting number about one man struggling with his schizophrenic delusions of godhood and elite self-importance. It’s a slow burn of metal destruction that erupts mid-song into this explosive, driving rebellion against his split personality, determined to rescue his own soul from the fires of Hell.

The most terrifying nightmares are those locked in our minds, the ones we can’t outrun or escape. Sabbath nailed it with this one.

Obsessed with fantasy, possessed with my schemes
I mixed reality with pseudo-god dreams
The ghost of violence was something I seen
I sold my soul to be the human obscene…
How could this poison be the dream of my soul?
How did my fantasies take complete control?

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Stargazer” — Rainbow (1976)

blgstargazerWe build a tower of stone
With our flesh and bone
Just to see him fly…

I, like many of my ilk, have absolutely zero problem flourishing under the belief that Ronnie James Dio didn’t pass away from stomach cancer in 2010, but rather perished heroically while saving our planet from being devoured by a ginormous cosmic dragon and why not? RJD might have been diminutive in stature but he was a Metal Giant, with an insanely powerful voice and lyrics steeped in mythology, heroic fantasy, epic literature, demonic imagery, and all that other fun stuff that made almost everything he was involved with seem larger than life and twice as majestic. He fronted so many great bands like Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio, that to even mention RJD’s name — or initials — is akin to proclaiming metal’s “Open Sesame”. Magic words, man. Powerful stuff.

Yes I buy into all of this mishegas. Life’s too short to wallow in the mundane.

Our Buttkickin’ Halloween Song for today hearkens all the way back to 1976, on Rainbow’s second LP Rising. This is the epic Stargazer, a high fantasy narrative about a powerful sorcerer who has enslaved an entire population, commanding them to build a great stone tower from which he can perform his incantations and deliver them to a new planet by a distant star. This mammoth production features Richie Blackmore’s guiding guitarwork and some powerful orchestrations by the Munich Symphony, and is perfectly emblematic of the fantastical, bombastic metal grandeur at which Ronnie James Dio absolutely excelled.

All eyes see the figure of the wizard
As he climbs to the top of the world
No sound, as he falls instead of rising
Time standing still, then there’s blood on the sand
Oh I see his face — where was your star?
Was it far, was it far
When did we leave?
We believed, we believed, we believed…

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Maybe” — The Ink Spots (1940)

blgmaybeMaybe you’ll think of me when you are all alone
Maybe the one who is waiting for you will prove untrue
Then what will you do?

Maybe you might think that The Ink Spots classic 1940 tune Maybe, strictly speaking, isn’t a “Halloween” song.

Maybe you’re right, but play the video below, listen to the music, close your eyes, and let the imagery wash over you.

Maybe you’re in the dusty yet ornate lobby of an abandoned grand hotel, and you have always been the caretaker, and the scratchy music is heard over an old-time radio that couldn’t possibly work…

Maybe you’re a private investigator in 1950s New Orleans, and your Mephistophelian client has come to collect his end of the bargain by showing you your true nature, and as you rush out the door in horror (to no avail) this song is playing over the gramophone…

Maybe you’re a young child living through the absolute horror of the apocalypse, and in your madness you’ve taken to playing deadly games with the undead in your front yard…

Maybe you’ve been a huge Fallout fan since 1997 and the song is part of your DNA at this point…

Maybe you’re trapped in a demonic hotel room and the song keeps playing over and over and over again…

Maybe there’s a haunting, sinister undertone to an otherwise simple tune, that of a singer vowing regret to the one who left him…

Maybe it’s reaffirming the primal horror that we all are born, and left to die, all alone…

Maybe you’ll sit and sigh, wishing that I were near
Then maybe you’ll ask me to come back again
And maybe I’ll say “maybe”

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Powerslave” — Iron Maiden (1984)

blgpowerslaveGreen is the cat’s eye that glows in this Temple
Enter the risen Osiris – risen again…

Iron Maiden’s fifth studio album Powerslave is widely regarded as one of their finest releases ever, if not THE finest. It’s definitely in my Top 3 (along with The Number of the Beast and Killers); I distinctly remember visiting West Germany with my parents in 1985 (anyone remember the concept of WEST Germany?) and sitting in the back of our rental car as we drove from town to town, headphones over my ears, playing a dog-eared tape of the album which I copied from my brother’s LP. Sadly, the whole album couldn’t fit onto a single 45-minute side, and I had to cut off half of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”… which is only my third favorite Maiden song of all-time. Poop.

But never mind all that. Let’s get to talking up the title track, and why Powerslave is one of the most buttkickin’ Halloween songs of all time! The tune is replete with all the trappings of ancient Egypt and classic Universal Monster flicks: a howling wind, creepy heartbeat, sudden howl and demonic laugh kick off the track, as Nicko McBrain’s drum fill delivers us into the intro. The guitar riff is pure Egyptian tone and timbre, as Bruce Dickinson’s inimitable vocals weave a tale of a cursed Egyptian Pharoah, mourning the irony of a so-called immortal lying on his deathbed, the God-King left as nothing but “slave to the power of death”. Of course the song ends with his passing, but into a living death of sorts. His spirit pounds at the gates of his tomb, a shell of mummified remains, preparing to strike from the grave…

When I was living this lie, Fear was my Game
People would worship and fall
Drop to their knees
So bring me the blood and red wine
For the one to succeed me
For he is a man and a God
And He will die too…

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Diary of a Madman” — Ozzy Osbourne (1981)

blgdiarymadmanVoices in the darkness
Scream away my mental health
Can I ask a question
To help me save me from myself?

Well it’s not like I’m not getting to Black Sabbath later… Oops. Spoiler alert.

The title track from Ozzy’s landmark 1981 album Diary of A Madman is arguably the finest track of his best album. The quality of the songwriting, the stronger production, and the evolution of the late great Randy Rhodes’s musicianship elevated the LP into the realm of rock and metal legend. And let’s be honest: the album cover alone was cool enough to send four generations of your matriarchal lineage shrieking for a buttload of Holy Water to come crashing down on your wicked heathen soul. Or something. My brother had the album and my parents just cocked their head and rolled their eyes. Good times.

Nonetheless, the album is a beauty and Diary of a Madman remains the epic closer of an already epic collection of tunes. The song is straightforward enough — a first-person ode to the slow but inexorable decay of the narrator’s sanity, as a malevolent spirit begins to take possession of his soul. Prototypical metal mythology? Without a doubt. But if anyone can deliver it exquisitely, it’s Ozzy. Combine that with Rhodes classical-infused fretwork, fractured time signatures, orchestral arrangements, and an overriding creep factor, and you have the perfect Halloween metal tune.

A sickened mind and spirit
The mirror tells me lies
Could I mistake myself for someone
Who lives behind my eyes?
Will he escape my soul
Or will he live in me?
Is he trying to get out
Or trying to enter me?

Race Review: 2014 Flanigan’s Rockin’ Rib Run 10K (10/26/2014), or: “What will we touch there? We’ll touch the sky…”

blgflanrockrib10kThe 2014 Flanigan’s Rockin’ Rib Run was pretty much one of the best race events I’ve ever experienced, for a host of reasons that I’m about to dive into, but before I do that it behooves me to mention that this race occurred the morning after the 2014 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon, which was also a very positive race experience. If you’ve never participated in two awesome races over the course of two consecutive mornings, I can attest that it’s pretty much as close to Runner Nirvana as you can get. I mean, other than PR’ing at Boston while high-fiving Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso and Hal Higdon and the ghost of Steve Prefontaine as you cross the Finish Line, after which you’re immediately inundated with recovery beers and Krispy Kreme doughnuts while Hoka and CW-X and CEP and Garmin are offering your sponsorship deals like they’re going out of style. With Shakira and Yaya Han and Linda Lavin gazing at you adoringly from the grandstands.

Now that’s entertainment!

Speaking of entertainment, I have to talk a bit about bib pickup and the utterly buttkickin’ swag that came with it. Pick-up was held the day before at Runner’s Depot in Davie, and we were pretty wowed by what we received with our bibs. All of the swag was contained inside a fairly high-quality backpack, black and green with the race logo imprinted on it. The backpack itself was pretty impressive, but even more impressive was what came inside it: a race towel, race tech shirt, a drawstring bag, Powerade, Monster Energy Drink, water bottle, protein bars, the Big Green Flanigan’s Cup, Runner’s Depot coupons, plus a $10 Flanigan’s gift card and a complimentary drink token. Hokey smokes! That was quite the swell haul. The race registration cost me all of $30, and the gift card and drink token alone is worth half of that amount.

But let’s get back to the race review: the 10K was held at 7:00AM at Tree Tops Park in Davie, Florida, on the morning of 10/26/2014. Boots and I picked up running buddy Kristi and we made the awfully arduous trek from Sunrise to Davie in about 13 minutes. The horror. There was a little bit of traffic entering Tree Tops, but we were inside and parked by 6:30. Unfortunately it was still plenty dark and plenty crowded, which made it a wee bit difficult to determine (1) where we parked, (2) where we going, and (3) anything more than a few feet in front of our faces. I’m thinking a bit more temporary lighting in the future might be efficacious.

Still, it wasn’t that much of a big deal. We followed the herd to the Start Area, where there was plenty of early morning activity: food, music, and BEER. People were apparently slamming the brews before sunrise. I can’t even imagine! After a quick jaunt to the Men’s Room, we made our way over to the Start Line, where we bumped into our buddies Katarina, Jose, Richard, and Bruce, and posed for this most amazing group pic that I love to death.

Katarina, me, Jose, Rich, Bruce, and Kristi before the race.

Katarina, me, Jose, Rich, Bruce, and Kristi before the race.

As always, I’m still the Giant in every picture…

Afterward we met up with Mark, Jeanne, and Lisa, more of our racing buddies, and waited for the race to begin. To say that the weather was agreeable is something of an understatement; it was SENSATIONAL. It was, like the previous day, clear, cool, low-humidity, 66 degrees and very breezy. I was actually feeling almost a wee bit chilly, but then again I am utterly iguana-blooded.

I captured two not entirely impressive shots of the Start Line area…

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… and soon after we started up with the National Anthem (gamely sung by a woman with an incredible voice). With a countdown the race began and we were off in earnest!

Here’s a look at the course:

Courtesy of Garmin and Google Maps

Courtesy of Garmin and Google Maps

This was your simple out and back course: we left Tree Tops and headed north on Nob Hill, with a turnaround on 13th Street which took us back to the park. Kristi and I were still a little tired from the previous day’s Half Marathon, so we settled into an easy 5:1 interval. I won’t go into detail about the race itself, except to say that with around 930 runners it never felt cramped or obnoxious. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits; I think the amazing weather helped a lot.

Boots went to capture a picture of us as we passed her before leaving the park. Alas, some woman decided that would be THE opportune moment to step in front of a photographer’s camera. Grr!

10473196_10153273886573219_7461527877395430665_n

Kristi, myself, tact-less woman, and Katarina.

I will say that I did insult one of the elite runners. To his face. Out loud. And he deserved it. Since it was a two-way course, the elite runners were at Mile 4 by the time we got to Mile 2. Kristi and I had just started our walk interval when he yelled out to us, “Don’t give up now! Keep running! Keep moving!” I responded with, “We’re on our walk interval. Run your own damn race, A**HOLE!” Seriously. What an obnoxious twit. I think I heard some appreciative snickering around us, but that might have been my ego en fuego.

But never mind that incident… what a great run! There was a single hydration stop around Mile 2. It was in the center of the course, which serviced runners both coming and going. I do have to give a shout out to a pair of apple-cheeked runners, a man and a woman, with whom we kept leap-frogging throughout the race. The first time we passed them, I was giving Kristi some verbal encouragement. “You’re doing awesome!” or something along those lines. The woman turned and said, “Oh… I thought you were talking to me!” At which point I serenaded both of them with an impromptu cantata of their phenomenal running prowess. This seemed to get a big laugh. Which was good, because I did it three or four more times throughout the race. I didn’t know their names so during the third song I nicknamed them “Carmelita” and “Hector”, or something like that.

Kristi almost choked from either laughter or embarrassment each time. Running with me can be so unsettling…

After the turnaround made our way back to the park and headed towards the Finish Line. Boots was waiting there and managed to capture this awesome action snapshot:

"Who loves ya bebbe?"

“Who loves ya bebbe?”

A Caribbean band was performing right at the Finish Line, giving us a little swing for our swagger as the race ended. We finished in 1:03:58, which was certainly more than respectable for a pair of nuts who ran a Half the day before. Kristi even managed to PR — her second in two days! Katarina and Jeanne also PR’ed as well, meaning it was a pretty strong morning for all involved. I mean, this was my third fastest 10K out of five, so I was pretty gosh-darn pleased too.

Take a look at the race medals, featuring the smiling face of Joe Flanigan himself:

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What was cool about the medal was that it opened up, containing another prized complimentary drink token inside! What sorcery is this? Madness!

The Finish Area featured free, all you can eat/drink ribs and beer for everybody (alongside the standard water, bananas, bagels, and peanut butter). We helped ourselves to some of the deliciously prized grub and chilled at a nearby picnic table to celebrate our victory. After a good while we made our way back to for seconds, but alas! They were out of ribs and beer. I found out later than they went through almost 600 pounds of ribs that morning. Damn! Well we certainly got our share, so we grabbed another bagel and banana and made our way back to the car. Which we found. Eventually.

Here are a last look at the Finish Area:

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I don’t think I heard a single person badmouth this event at all. The 2014 Flanigan’s Rockin’ Rib Run 10K was an amazing time. Lots of PRs made, lots of great swag, and lots of good eatin’/drinkin’ at the Finish Line (for as long as it lasted, anyhow, but most runners seemed satisfied). Flanigan’s and Runner’s Depot put on a most amazing event, one I will easily and gladly return to next year. Here’s the video:

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Soul Stripper” — AC/DC (1975)

blgsoulstripperOh I thought I got to be dreaming
I didn’t know I fell in her trap…

I can’t believe we’re in the last week of October, a few days from Halloween, which means we’re nearing the end of our month-long celebration of all things spooky and musical… which means we’re going to double our efforts from this point on. It’s like Two-For-Tuesday, but every day through Halloween. Because I’ve been slacking. Or something.

Anyway… our selection today comes from classic hard rock band AC/DC, hearkening all the way back to their 1975 debut album High Voltage. There’s a touch of 70s Funk/R&B mixed with blues rock in Soul Stripper, one of their most under-recognized and most buttkickin’ tunes. The intro alone is worth the price of admission, especially hearing Angus’s tasteful soloing over that righteous bassline.

But let’s bring the spookiness, shall we? There’s a burgeoning sense of danger that grows throughout the song, underneath the verses, until it explodes with full AC/DC fervor at the chorus. Singer Bon Scott delivers the lyrics with his usual flair, weaving a basic tale of an unsuspecting man wooed to a garden by a beautiful siren-esque female, only to discover she’s some kind of succubus-like entity devouring his thoughts, his freewill, his soul… whatever. Your basic dopey rock metaphor of being Not exactly the deepest of lyrics, but AC/DC was never known for their lyrical esoterics. Soul Stripper is a simple spooky tune that just happens to bring Teh Rawk. So enough of my yakking, hit that video down below and crank it.

She started moving nice and easy
Slowly getting near to my spine
Killing off each last little feeling
Ooh everyone she could find
And when she had me hollow and naked, yeah
That’s when she put me down
Pulled out a knife and flashed it before me
Stuck it in and turned it around…

Race Review: 2014 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon (10/25/2014), or: “He out-bopped the buzzard and the oriole…”

blg2014halloweenhalfSo I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon last year (2013), and I started off my race review asserting how I wasn’t a “running in costume” sorta guy. I think THAT particular call still stands, but Halloween doesn’t count. It never counts. It exists in its own continuum, in a state of quantum isolation outside the aether of normal time/space. Or some other such garbage. Halloween has its own rules, its own differences… so there.

And speaking of differences: talk about change over the course of a year! I liked 2013’s race well enough, but not without some significant criticisms. I felt this year’s race improved significantly — three major problems from last year were entirely eliminated, which made for a much stronger race experience. Yet there were still some concerns that I noticed this year, and we’ll get to them in a bit.

But before we do, let’s get the Big Revelation out of the way. Last year I wrote the following:

I was convinced that, since running in costume is part of the fun, I’d probably end up as some sort of superhero. And my favorite has always been Robin; when I was a kid and a madcap superhero/comic book geek, the red-and-yellow acrobatic partner to the Dark Knight was always my favorite. Plus I had an older brother and he always got to be Batman. So I got used to Robin real quick.

So without any further elaboration, here I am Saturday morning:

"Holy Rose-Colored Mood Lighting, Batman!"

“Holy Rose-Colored Mood Lighting, Batman!”

Dream realized — nifty! While the FIT crew went with the bumblebee theme again, running buddy Kristi and I were planning Batgirl and Robin for a few months now. Certainly not the most original of costumes — there were close to several zillion superheroes out on the course that day — but that’s exactly the way we wanted it. The costume itself was pretty much homemade. I already had the red sleeveless running shirt, upon which I pinned a 3-inch Robin button for the insignia. Boots bought some yellow fabric and fashioned a small cape out of it, which we pinned to the shoulders and back of the shirt. I wore a green compression shirt underneath to match the “classic” Robin look of red tunic and green sleeves. As far as the mask, that was only for pictures. I didn’t want to run with it on because (a) it would severely cut off my peripheral vision, which is so vitally necessary during a race (especially one that got as narrow as this one), and (b) my head would have been hotter than New York pavement in July. To mimic the mask look, I wore black running sunglasses and had a black Halo headband. The shorts were my usual CW-X compression shorts, and my green shoes were a new pair of Hoka One-One Stinson Tarmacs.

Costume layout the night before the race

Costume layout the night before the race

OK enough about my attire. On raceday morning, we woke at 4:00 AM. The plan was to leave our house in Sunrise at 4:45 — it would be about a 35-40 minute drive to get to Parrot Jungle Island, the Start Area of the race. We left on time and made our way down; Boots was going to drop me off there and then go park by the Finish Line near Alton Road. We got to the Start Line area around 5:20 AM and TRAFFIC. WAS. A. NIGHTMARE. The line of cars waiting to pull onto the perimeter road that takes you to Parrot Jungle Island was backed up all the way back onto I-395. 5:20AM turned into 5:30 and then into 5:40, and we were still on I-395. Boots smartly called an audible and pulled out of waiting traffic, heading further east down I-395 and making the first U-Turn. We headed back west and turned into the bus drop-off area by Parrot Jungle. There I was able to get out of the car, grab my stuff, pause for a quick pic and then walk to the Start Line as Boots left to go park by the Finish. It went perfectly. I made it to the Start Area with time to spare.

By chance I happened to meet my Facebook buddy Sarah outside and we chatted for a few minutes before I made my way towards the men’s room for some necessary necessities. As always, the men’s room line paled in comparisons to that of the women’s. Double standards; god bless ‘em. Once done, I met up with the FIT gang, where we posed for a bunch of photographs and killed time until the race proper was to begin.

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Finally around 6:30 AM, the race began rather promptly. There was no singing of the National Anthem, no big light show or fireworks or anything, really. Just a basic “On your marks, get set…” announcement. As Kristi and I passed the Start Line, we agreed to ourselves that this wasn’t a race for time. We were just doing a 13-mile training run and that was it. Slow and easy was the order of the day. We’d stick to our 5:1 intervals and just enjoy a slow, pleasant run through Miami Beach. Certainly any thoughts of PRs were out the window, right? RIGHT? Sure…

Anyway, let’s take a look at the Race Course:

Courtesy of Garmin and Google Maps

Courtesy of Garmin and Google Maps

It behooves me to say that the weather that morning was absolutely pitch-perfect for October in Miami. It was very clear and cool, breezy in the upper 60s at the Start, with very low humidity. Throughout the entirety of the run, there wasn’t a single moment that felt oppressive, muggy, hot, or nasty. These were, simply put, great running conditions for South Florida.

The first three miles took us on the curve out of Parrot Jungle Island and then east down I-395 until just before Alton Road. The first mile was pretty crowded and congested. I noticed a lot of runners zig-zagging around slower runners and walkers, and sadly witnessed a few runners cutting other runners off and even elbowing and shoving them out of the way without so much as a by-your-leave! Since this was a small race — 1200 runners or so — there were no corrals or any kind of placement, really. Still, it bothered us little, as we were heading out slow and easy. The first three miles took us 10:45, 11:19, and 11:25; VERY slow miles for a race, but more than reasonable for a slower training run.

Miles 4 through 6 took us south on a path adjacent to Alton Road, curving east towards the beach, and then north up the wide path adjacent to Ocean Drive. There was one hugely noticeable difference about this leg of the race, when compared to last year: while there were a few pedestrians who kept to the side of the course, there were no South Beach d-bags standing in the middle of the pathways, stumbling around drunk, walking slowly in front of runners, or being general South Beach d-bags trying to “assert” themselves. This was such a welcome change. Perhaps the race directors got the word out to the locals in a more efficacious manner this year.

The Finish Area was near the Mile 4 marker, where those who were running the Freaky 4-Miler would be turning to finish their race. Meanwhile, our pace got a wee bit faster but still at training-run pace: 10:59, 11:16, 11:05. Boots was parked on the path adjacent to Alton and grabbed these pics of Kristi and I as we passed by:

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Another hugely welcome change this year: THERE WAS NO RUNNING ON BEACH SAND. Period. This made for a lot more happy runners. I remember all those miserable faces last year after running a 1/2 mile on sand. Twice. Tightly-packed, my ass!

Miles 7 through 10 took us northbound, with a stunning early morning view of the sun, surf, and sand on our right hand side and Ocean Drive (and a long string of beach hotels) on our left. More than half of this segment — roughly 2.5 miles — was spent on The Boardwalk, a narrow wooden corridor that was well shaded, scenic, and serene. It was also ridiculously crowded and a bit slippery, making it very difficult to pass slower runners, especially when many of them thought it was a great idea to run as a “block”. Oy. Bear in mind that since this was an out-and-back course, passing slowing runners also meant avoiding incoming runners who had passed the turn-around and were making their way back south. We witnessed one unfortunately girl totally face-plant during this segment. She was fine, but it underscored how difficult this section was to race and navigate.

Here’s a pic I “borrowed” from Wild Side of Kristi and I making our way up the Boardwalk:

This was a two-way corridor. Not the easiest to navigate.

This was a two-way corridor. Not the easiest to navigate.

Still, despite my reservations about running The Boardwalk, we made it to the turnaround and worked our way southbound to return to the Finish Line. Our paces for miles 7 through 10 were 10:55, 10:49, 11:21, and 10:44. Despite the congestion of the Boardwalk area, we actually not only managed to maintain pace, we were managing to increase our overall pace for a spell.

But now here’s where the real fun begins!

By mile 11 were now heading back south, on the “back” portion of the “out and back” course. While the sun was now rising, it was still quite breezy, shaded, and cool. I never felt any deleterious heat or uncomfortable weather; it was still damn nice out there. Mile 11 took us 10:28, a major improvement from before! When we reached the 2-hour mark on the nose, Kristi and I stopped for our scheduled one-minute walk interval. As we were walking, she turned to me and casually said, “Wow. Two hours… we’re not doing bad. Close to my PR.”

“Hmm… what’s your PR again?” I responded.

“2:22… from the 13.1 Miami Beach race.”

I looked at my watch and started doing the numbers in my head. By the time our run interval was scheduled to begin at 2:01, we would be about 21 minutes away from her PR. And we had about two miles to go. I crunched the integers until they were smooshed into teensy tiny pieces and put them back together with quick calculations, and finally said, “You know… you could totally PR this. TOTALLY. And we wouldn’t have to kill ourselves to do it.”

“You think so?” Kristi asked, looking rather incredulously at me.

“Yup, easily,” I said. And I meant it too. We did the first 11 miles slow and easy. The weather was cooperating and we were in a lesser-congested area now. I had no doubt we could hit the afterburners and cross the Finish Line by 2:20. There was plenty of gas in the tank, and we wouldn’t even need to go at an all-out sprint or end our 5:1 intervals. We just needed to run a little bit faster during our run intervals.

“I’m in if you are,” I said. Kristi responded that she was definitely in. When our run interval began at 2:01 we hit the ground running, upping our pace and utilizing all of the energy we had saved up by going slower than usual in the previous miles. And MAN did we move. We ran Mile 12 at an average pace at an unbelievable (for us) 9:35. I even managed to pass my friend and business school buddy Andrew as we were heading south on the pathway adjacent to Ocean Drive. He shouted my name as he passed me running northbound, and we exchanged REALLY brief greetings. If we weren’t gunning it towards the Finish, I would have stopped to chat for a little. Alas, we were on a mission.

By the time we got to the Last Mile, the sun was out in full force. The elevated course above and around the South Pointe park was probably the “hardest” part of the course, but we managed to not only maintain pace, but increase it — all the while still sticking to our 5:1 intervals. We exited the park and headed east up the pathway towards the Finish. Boots was stationed there and took these action snapshots:

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And now comes time for our Mystery Hokeyblog Reader Shout Out! Boots later told me that, while snapping photos next to Smith and Wollesnky, she was recognized by a Hokeyblog reader dressed up as a Mummy. So big shout-out to you, Sir Mums! Thanks for reading and keep racing like a boss!

Within moments the Finish Line was in sight, and with that the final MASSIVE improvement over last year: NO FINISH LINE FAKE OUT. Last year had us passing by the Finish Line around Mile 12, but we still had to keep going down and back for another mile. It was a morale draining moment of the highest order. But not this year. Reaching the Finish meant REACHING THE FINISH. As we turned to take the final 0.1 miles in to finish our race, Kristi looked to me and the excitement on her face was ridiculously palpable. “Oh my God, we’re REALLY doing this!” she exclaimed with a huge smile on her face. We might have lost a few seconds as a mother lost control of her two toddlers as they suddenly sprinted out onto the course to cross the Finish Line with (presumably) their father, but no matter. We finished that last mile at a 9:35 pace and crossed the Finish Line with a Net Time of 2:18:46.

We had done something completely by accident. What was to have been a slow, fun, no-pressure and easy training run turned into a 4-minute PR for Kristi. I even managed to finish over six minutes faster than my time from last year. Not to sound too full of ourselves, but until those last two miles we weren’t even really trying all that hard. And yet there we were. VERY pleased with ourselves. We were knighted with our well-earned race medals, which this year featured none other than the Headless Horseman himself:

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The immediate Finish Area was a little sparse. There wasn’t much in terms of food and drink; mostly just some fruit and recovery drinks, while I saw a few people with bagels and peanut butter. The REAL Finish Area was a few blocks over at Nikki Beach, which had a free buffet spread going on with pesto tortellini, chicken, rice, potato salad, water, coconut water, protein bars, and more. Sadly, there was no beer. While we had a great time meeting up with our buddies and celebrating at Nikki Beach, it was still several blocks away from the Finish Line — maybe a 5-10 minute walk, depending on how sore you were feeling. I don’t think that it was very well communicated to runners that there were a lot more food, drinks, and promotional items available to them. Many were complaining that there was “Nothing at the Finish Line!” But it couldn’t be helped; there simply wasn’t enough room there to put on an acceptable Finish Area reception.

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Overall, I had a really fun time and a very cool race experience with the 2014 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon, and while there is still room for some improvement — Boardwalk running is still a pain, a disjointed Finish Area with no beer — the major problems from last year were gone. Sand running? GONE! Finish Line fakeout? ELIMINATED! Even the dreadful turn down a crowded, early-morning Lincoln Road mall was discontinued as well. While last year I was indifferent to repeating the race again in 2014, I’m already planning my costume for 2015. I’m thinking Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly. Maybe Clifton Webb? Ahh I forget. Anyway, thanks for reading, gang. Here’s the (rather predictable while enjoyable) video:

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Totentanz” — Franz Liszt (1849)

blgtotenhanzAs much as I have grown to really appreciate what’s known as ‘classical music’ throughout my lifetime, I think probably retained the greatest affinity for the composers of the Romantic Era, a period which occurred during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. Not that I want to get too deep into pseudo-intellectualism in a blog series with the word Buttkickin’ in the title, but the Romantic Era of art, music, and literature highly favored expressionism and extreme emotional content, what was known to the Germans as Sturm und Drang, or “Storm and Drive”.

Themes of fear, terror, apprehension, power, folklore, nationalism, and death came to the forefront. The seemingly structured and aristocratic forms of the Baroque and Classical periods, while still highly revered and deeply influential, gave way into a deeper sense of auteurism and expressionism. Ludwig van Beethoven was at the forefront in the transition from Classical to Romantic — the brutal assault of his Fifth Symphony struck audiences like some massive cultural typhoon — and over the next several decades composers were falling all over themselves to express their basest emotional content in composition.

One of the most chilling and stunning examples of this is Hungarian composer Franz Liszt’s Totentanz, or “Dance of the Dead”. A dark, haunting, macabre piece, Totentanz emerged from the shadowy depths of Liszt’s innate fear of Death. Liszt was a piano virtuoso, and the percussive keyboard lines come across like a terrified human wail against the orchestral certainty of mortality. The central motivic theme is based on a plainchant entitled Dies irae, and it lends an air of timeless certainty to the piece’s foundation while the emotional musical content flails around it, as if reminding us that the Grim Reaper never stagnates in his eternal certainty no matter how strong our struggle, no matter how terrified our cries…

Plus, let’s be really real: it sounds spooky as hell. Close the windows, kill the lights save for a single candle, put on Totentanz, and drink deep from our shared well of collective mortal terror.

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Gallows Pole” — Led Zeppelin (1970)

blggallowsBrother, did you get me some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my brother, to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

Led Zeppelin III is easily my favorite Zeppelin album because it showcases the band’s “shadow and light” ethos at its finest. Certainly it brings “teh rawk” in abundance with tracks like “The Immigrant Song”, “Out on the Tiles”, “Celebration Day”, and “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, but it’s the slower, moodier, more introspective acoustic tunes that really stand out. From the exotic strings of “Friends” to the yearning melancholy of “Tangerine” and “That’s The Way” to the rustic folk of “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, the album represents the band’s evolution beyond the predominant blues-based hard rock of their first two LPs. They had a deep bench of styles and influences from which they infused much of their music.

Leading off Side 2 of the album was Gallows Pole, one of the album’s few radio tracks. The tune is based off a centuries-old traditional European folk song originally entitled The Maid Freed from the Gallows; most renditions of the song detail a woman about to be executed by an unforgiving, immutable hangman. Other versions feature a doomed male protagonist, but the end result is generally the same. The victim is pleading for their life, often imploring their family to bring gold, silver, or anything of value to save them from execution. It hardly ever ends well.

In Zeppelin’s version, the narrator pleads the hangman to hold off on the execution in a last-ditch effort to sway the would-be Jack Ketch with bribes. First comes a group of his friends, who unfortunately brought no silver or gold, claiming they are too poor to offer up anything of monetary value. The narrator’s brother arrives next, bringing silver, gold, “a little of everything” to save him from a certain death… but to no avail! The hangman remains unmoved.

Finally the narrator’s sister arrives. The narrator begs her to offer up her maidenhood to the hangman, as one final effort to keep him from swinging from the gallows pole. She agrees to do so, and the hangman himself seems very appreciative of the gesture, claiming she “warmed his soul”.

But it’s still not enough…

Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
She brought my blood to boiling hot
To keep you from the Gallows Pole
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard and see you swinging on the Gallows Pole
But now I laugh and pull so hard and see you swinging on the Gallows Pole, Pole, Pole…