Album Review: “Feedback” — Rush (2004)

blgrushfeedbackIt seems to be an all-too-common thing (almost cliché, really) for bands to put out an album of cover tunes, as a basic declaration of “this is where we come from” or “this is what influenced us” or “this is what we’ve been reduced to”, etc. You definitely would be hard-pressed to place Rush in the latter column, as in 2004 the band was riding a high crest from a successful “comeback” album and tour supporting their 2002 release Vapor Trails. Even after a prolonged hiatus, Rush was still a creative, artistically evolving, and musically viable entity.

But let’s face it: sometimes you just want to have a bit of fun, ya know? Waxing nostalgic, perhaps, for the music of their youth that sparked their creative fuses, Lee, Lifeson, and Peart gathered in the studio to record a collection of classic tunes from the late 1960s, the kind that formed a musical DNA that guided many a hard rock band of the era. The resulting album Feedback was recorded with little muss or fuss, light on the production and heavy on the basics. The trio took the songs of The Who, The Yardbirds, Blue Cheer, Cream, Love, and Buffalo Springfield and composed a 28 minute love-letter to the lot of them.

Twenty-eight minutes… barely more than an EP. And yet freed from the expectations and self-administered highest of demands that came with crafting their own compositions, Rush erupted a riotously enjoyable piece of work, almost something of a spiritual sequel to their 1974 self-titled debut album in that it equally revels deep in their blues/hard rock roots, only this time with 30 years of successful recording and touring experience behind them. There isn’t a hint of pretension, no conscious effort of “deconstruction” or “re-interpretation” whatsoever. By the time they rip into the opening track, Eddie Cochrane’s “Summertime Blues” (by way of covers by both The Who and Blue Cheer), you’re almost instantly cognizant of exactly the type of album Rush was making.

There might not be a whole lot of tonal variety on Feedback, but there really doesn’t need to be for this kind of record. Even the album cover itself was designed as if it was peeled off some venue wall in 1968, and everything from the earnestness of “Heart Full of Soul”, the mad mod psychedelia of “Shapes of Things”, the wistful yearning of erstwhile classic “For What It’s Worth”, and the anthemic (if purposefully off-putting) “Seven and Seven Is” works to feed that particular vibe. And all of it works. You can feel not only the deep affection for but also that strong connection with the music they’re covering.

The band cuts loose with the requisite rockers, of course. Aside from the opening “Summertime Blues”, Rush is having a rollicking good time with The Who’s “The Seeker” and wraps up the album wonderfully with Cream’s “Crossroads”. At 28 minutes in length, the album is over in no time at all, and it kind of leaves you wanting more… until you basically remember that Lee, Lifeson, and Peart have a pretty good gig outside of being a really strong cover band. So be it. Feedback is not what the layperson might expect from a band like Rush, and that works entirely in the album’s favor. As a collection of cover tunes, it’s not quite an essential Rush album. But ZOWIE is it a fun one.

Jeff Galloway’s Training and Motivation Tips #6, or: “A feeling is so much stronger than a thought…”

blggalloway6

I’m sure six is a powerful number in some sorcerous capacity, as I’m sure “sorcerous” is a real word, somewhere. That has heck-all to do with our latest presentation of Jeff Galloway’s Training and Motivation Tips, but I needed a random, fantasy-escapism-themed opening sentence, and there you have it. Speaking of which, have you ever worked numerology on your full name in relation to your birth date? Try it sometime. It’s fine practice if you ever need to create an alias or nom de plume that is cosmically-aligned with your spiritual proclivities. I have one. And I’ll never tell what it is!!

(“Xavier Finkelstein”)…

*ahem* ANYWAY we here at HokeyCorp International are pleased as pigeons to partner with the great Jeff Galloway in order to bring you, our awesomely non-twitchy readers, some tips that will help you in your running, fitness, training, racing, and overall happiness when it comes to strapping on them overpriced kicks and hitting the pavement. And special for today’s tips, Jeff will be focusing on how to become a speedier and more efficient runner, something for which many of us could use some guidance. So without further a-do, here they all in all their glory. Jeff’s tips will be in blue, while my comments will… not be in blue. It’s just that simple. Take it away, Señor Jefe!

FIVE WAYS TO GET FASTER
by Olympian Jeff Galloway

Longer Long Runs

Increasing the length of the longest long run has produced the greatest amount of improvement that I’ve seen among my coaching clients. Several surveys have shown more than 13 minutes of time improvement when runners increase their longest long run from 20 miles to 26 miles before a marathon. Comparable time improvements are experienced in 10K runners and half marathoners when they increase their long runs above race distance as noted in my YEAR ROUND PLAN book that covers all the distances. Long runs must be at least 2 min/mi slower than current ability, with liberal walk breaks. The slower the pace, the quicker the recovery. I suggest doing the long runs every 2-3 weeks.

Your mileage may vary, but I don’t buy the “To train for a half/full marathon, you only need to run 9/18 miles at the most” train of thought… especially for first timers. Sure you can finish the race, but you won’t finish strong. Or fast. Or happy. When I ran my first Half, my longest training run about 3 weeks before the race was 14 miles. The confidence I carried into the actual event was incalculable, since I already knew I could go the distance (and even beyond!) I also agree with running slower (but not too slow!) during training, since your adrenaline and focus on race-day is going to kick your game up several notches. In my mind, endurance is much more critical than speed; if you have the stamina to run those long miles, the speed will certainly follow.

Speed Repetitions—increasing the number

My runners have improved by an average of over 6 minutes in a marathon (3+ minutes in a half marathon) by increasing the number of speed repetitions to 14 x 1 mile for the marathon, and 14 x 800 meter for the half marathon. I recommend that each of these be run 30 sec/mi faster than goal pace. The recovery interval is a 5 min walk between miles and a 3 minute walk between 800’s. These workouts prepare one to maintain or pick up pace at the end of the goal race, instead of slowing down. See GALLOWAY TRAINING PROGRAMS & HALF MARATHON books for details (www.RunInjuryFree.com).

There isn’t a whole lot I can add to this. Speed training absolutely works if you want to get faster. I’ve done sprint intervals in the middle of Half Marathons, and every time I did them I either PR’ed or came super close.

Improve Running Form

Most runners I’ve monitored have improved several minutes in a marathon by fine-tuning their running form. As the mechanics become smoother and within one’s limits, there is a significant reduction in aches, pains and injuries. The two best ways to improve form are water running and cadence drills.

  • Water running uses the same basic motion as when running on land, using a flotation device so that the feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool. When done for at least 15 minutes, once a week, the legs find a more efficient path through the water—eliminating extraneous motion.
  • The cadence drill is done for 30 seconds, counting the number of times the foot touches the ground. This drill is detailed in most of my books. I’ve found the key to improving speed on the mechanical side is quicker turnover.

I can’t say I’ve tried Water Running before, but it sounds pretty interesting. If you can subconsciously train yourself to find the past of least resistance — in this case, the most efficient use of your running power — then you’re going to end up being a much stronger running.

Running cadence is something I personally need to work on. I’m a tall, long-legged doofus so my stride is pretty long. I average around the 155 mark. If I could up that to 170, I’m convinced I’d see much improvement in my pace.

Race in Shorter Events

Dropping down a standard distance or two can improve your mechanics for running faster and your ability to handle a higher level of oxygen debt. On non-long-run weekends, during a half marathon program, try some 5K or 10K races. When training for a marathon, race at the 10K or half marathon distance. At first, the faster pace of the shorter distance may seem awkward. But after several short races, you will adapt—especially if you do some speed training for the shorter/faster event. These performance improvements can translate into faster times in the longer distances. My book 5K/10K details the training and the racing strategies for these events.

Well you certainly don’t have to twist the arms of any of us obsessive running nerds to get us to run more races. During last summer’s hardcore full marathon training, I ran four halfs and two 10Ks, and I did better at them than I imagined… even PR’ing at the Avengers Half Marathon! It’s encouraging to see serious improvement in your short game as you’re preparing for a longer one.

Hill Training

The only way I’ve found to build strength for running is to run hill repeats. On a moderate grade hill, start at a jog and pick up the turnover rate of the feet and legs as you go up the hill, shortening your stride. Walk down the hill for recovery. Don’t sprint, and follow the other hill training guidelines in my books and at www.RunInjuryFree.com. The strength from hill training will allow you to perform better in speed sessions which will help you improve in your goal race. You’ll also run faster on hilly courses, during your races.

A tiny little problem with this: I live in South Florida, where we don’t got no hills. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Bubkis. Goose Egg. So off to the bridges we go, up and down, down and up, back and forth, one to the other, each to his brother… it gets really repetitive, really quickly. But man do you see results, and you see them quickly. If you don’t have hills, find a bridge. No bridge? Try a landfill or run up a parking garage, if you can. Check with security first. They can get a wee bit surly…

Here’s a quick word from our partner, but stick around for the wrap-up afterward:

blgallowaysavenowSave NOW and register for the Jeff Galloway 13.1 and Barb’s 5K. Prices increases tomorrow May 2nd! Don’t let your readers miss out on these savings!
Register now at http://www.jeffgalloway131.com.
blggallowaypodcastListen and share this great podcast “Jeff Galloway’s Tips For Beginner Runners” with Mark Kennedy from Healthynomics! From how Jeff got running to breathing while you run; it’s all here!

Well there you have it, today’s Jeff Galloway’s Training And Motivation Tips for you to use and enjoy. Come back later in the month for more of Jeff’s insights and stick around for some kibbitzing and a nosh! Meanwhile, here’s the video:

Race Review: 2015 Wings For Life World Run (Sunrise, FL — 5/3/2015), or: “I believe it’s time for me to fly…”

11170323_10153250189017445_2411509579055173288_nThis hasn’t been easy.

God knows, I’ve tried. A lot. About a dozen times now, I’ve attempted to come up with an introduction to my review of the 2015 Wings For Life World Run, and they’ve all come up painfully short. For a race as special and as unique as this one, you really want to fly in with something that will really knock your readers’ socks off, rather than your average cold, mundane, impersonal bloggitude. And yet for some reason, I’ve been firing blanks on that front.

And it’s a shame, especially since this is my second time to this here rodeo. Whereas the introduction to my review of last year’s race featured paragraph upon paragraph of effusive praise and heartfelt joy, doing the same for this year’s review has resulted in little more than a few hundred words of “ditto”.

"Ditto? DITTO, you provincial putz??"

“Ditto? DITTO, you provincial putz??”

I’ve been waiting to use a Blazing Saddles zinger for a while now…

But enough of this zany chicanery. Let’s go back to talking about the Wings For Life World Run, which had its second annual event on May 3rd, 2015, simultaneously held in thirty-five cities across six continents! A precisely 7:00 AM Eastern Standard Time, nearly 70,000 runners in countries like Turkey, Australia, South Africa, Belarus, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, England, Croatia, Japan, Russia, India, Portugal, and of course here in the USA crossed their respective Start Lines together and ran to raise money and awareness for Wings For Life, an organization dedicated to researching new treatments and discovering eventual cures for spinal cord injuries. As a result, nearly $5 million USD (4.2 million Euros) was raised for this incredibly worthy cause.

The race was only being held in two cities in the United States: Santa Clarita, California… and Sunrise, Florida.

sunrise-florida3

Sunrise. That’s precisely the very same town where your humble yet intrepid narrator lives. Broward County. Everglades East. The 954.

What are the odds? A global race that just happens to run past my very home? This is a done deal, folks.

But what makes the Wings For Life World Run so different, so fun, and so fulfilling to all its participants? At this point, I’m just going to take last year’s description of what makes this race so unique and paraphrase it here — not because I’m feeling particularly lazy today (although I am), but because I think it sums it up pretty goshdarn swell. So take it away, Hokeydude from one year ago!

wayneflashback

The unique nature of the race allows runners to avail themselves a different type of challenge. Simply put: there is no Finish Line. Instead, the Wings For Life World Run features a “moving finish line” known as the Catcher Car. Precisely thirty minutes after Start Time, a white Wings For Life car with a sensor takes off from the Start Area. It moves at a relatively slow pace (for a car — just over 9 mph), but fast enough to start catching up with runners. Every half hour after departing, the Catcher Car increases its speed until finally cruising at around 13 mph. When the Catcher Car finally passes you — your race is over. The sensor reads the information off the timing chip on your race bib, records your time and distance, and marks you as finished. As the Catcher Car passes you, a host of shuttles behind it picks up the finished runners and takes them back to the Start Area for their medals, post-race food/drinks, and entertainment.

Your nemesis during the race: no, not the Porto-Potties, the CAR!

Your nemesis during the race: no, not the Porto-Potties, the CAR!

Your job, as a runner, is to elude the catcher car for as long you can! That means run, dammit!! Now that’s the type of challenge that really puts a twist on your entire race approach. First of all, it’s damn fun. You’re always aware that, 30 minutes into the race, someone, something, SOMEWHERE back there is hunting you down. It might be going slow, but it’s going quite a bit faster than you. It WILL catch up with you. Your challenge is simply, how far can you go before you’re hunted down?

OK! 2015 Hokeyboy is back and itching to get reviewing again. I think the big question here is whether or not this year’s race held up as well as last year’s. I made no mistake about how I felt about the event in 2014, calling it “the single most uplifting and fulfilling event in which I’ve ever participated.” My own words there. So was 2015’s race a contender? Did it maintain its impeccable quality, sharp organization, festive atmosphere, emotional connection, spiritual fulfillment, and so forth? Was the strong feeling of global brotherhood meets local community spirit just as palpable? Did I have even remotely as good a time as I did last year?

Oh yeah. In fact, in most ways it was even better.

The Start Line was at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, directly across from the world-famous Sawgrass Mills mall. That was also the scene for registration and bib pick-up the day before the race. Living a few minutes away made getting in and out a breeze, so Boots and I eased over in the early afternoon to grab my bib and race swag. Already most of the tents had been erected, while dozens of volunteers were still busy attending to the completion of the rest of the runners area, media zones, hydration stops, signage, and so forth. Check-in consisted of finding my race number, signing my waiver, and getting my bib, race shirt, and swag bag. The bag had a few nifty goodies, like a small micro-fiber towel in a portable pouch, race buff, and wristband.

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Fast forward to 5:15 AM the next morning… I woke to the chimes of my alarm, grabbed all my carefully prepared race gear, munched on a Clif bar for breakfast, and hopped in the car to drive over to the BB&T Center. Boots, my erstwhile wife, supporter, and photographer, had a different plan of attack. Since the race course literally went right past our home, she elected to walk over to Oakland and Hiatus to snap pictures there, and then walked north on Hiatus to grab more pictures of us later in the race.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Boots is the brains of the operation. And the looks. Me, I’m just the mouth…

Due to lane closures and race day traffic, what normally is a 3-4 minute drive turned into a nearly half-hour sojourn. I was planning on meeting Running Buddy Kristi at 6:20 AM, and I was already running late by the time I was parked at the BB&T. She elected to park at Sawgrass Mills instead, and ended up arriving at our meeting area by the Start Line well before I did. Once again, someone else is the brains and looks. I’m detecting a pattern here. Sigh.

After meeting up at the video screen, which was projecting a live feed of various Start Lines around the world, we walked over to the runners chute to await the inevitable countdown.

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The area was full of runners, much more so than last year; almost a 50% increase! There was a mix of excitement and anxiety on many of the faces I saw… more of the former than the latter, but I suppose the concept of running until you were hunted down by Catcher Car seemed a bit daunting to some. Still, you could feel that, be it nervousness or excitement or whatever it was people were feeling, spirits were definitely high, optimistic, and ready to run. There was no National Anthem — this was a GLOBAL event, after all — and with a ten second countdown we were off at 7:00 AM! Time to run as long as we could, as fast as we could, until they finally hunted us down. For 70,000 runners across the world, the 2015 Wings For Life World Run was afoot!

Here is the map of our total progress, courtesy of Google Maps and my Garmin 920 XT (…which is new. I love it. Review coming soon):

I live somewhere between Miles 6 and 7...

I live somewhere between Miles 6 and 7…

Weather wise, it was a near-perfect running day! We’re talking high 60s/low 70s and humidity at the 57% mark. For South Florida in May, that’s pretty much a godsend. It felt GREAT out there. Kristi and I quickly settled into 5:1 intervals as we traversed the first mile, which took us around the BB&T Center parking lot. It was extremely crowded out of the gate — walkers five abreast, OY! — but the crowds began to thin out around the half-mile mark. The course took us out of the BB&T Center and onto Pat Salerno Drive, turning north onto Flamingo which then curved into eastbound down Oakland.

There were two things I became well-aware of: (1) the chosen course was a good one, as it remained heavily shaded throughout almost the entirety of the early morning, and (2) the hydration stops were well-placed and well-staffed with cheering volunteers. Police handled the flow of automobile traffic extremely well, although I heard more than a few Sunday morning obscenities from irate drivers waiting for these jackass runners to pass. Come on, people, it’s for a good cause! SHEESH!

At the 5K mark I spotted Boots, who managed to capture some amazing action snapshots, like this one here:

Why am I doing "The Robot"?

Kristi and I at the 5K mark. Why am I doing “The Robot”?

It was right around this time our watches hit the 30 minute mark, which meant only one thing: THE CATCHER CAR HAD JUST LEFT ITS CAGE AND WAS HUNTING OUR COLLECTIVE ASSES DOWN!

I thought I noticed a slight uptick in the pace of the runners around us!

Otherwise, it was a beautiful morning for a run, and we just kept on trucking. We continued eastbound down Oakland, making a left turn heading north on Nob Hill. All of these streets are like home to me; I’ve run and biked down them plenty of times, so I knew exactly where we were and how far along we had gone (OK, yes, the Garmin helped a bit on that). Not for a moment during the run did I ever feel sore, winded, tired, or anything of the sort. As a matter of fact, I felt pretty great the entire time (as did Kristi). Only once did I have to stop; as we turned west on NW 50TH street, I suddenly felt I could no longer contain my pressing urges to pee. No porto-potty around, so I told Kristi to run ahead while I found a secluded tree in a parking lot. Oy. I must have drunk an entire jug of water that morning, because it took over a minute to finish. Afterward I high-tailed it westbound to catch up my with my running buddy, which I did as we reached Hiatus and the turn south.

By the time we passed the entrance to our development, Kim was waiting and managed to capture yet even more action snapshots:

Dig us!

Apparently the only other hand gesture I know is the Two Thumbs Up thingy.

I’m glad we started out with simple intervals and stuck to them. We had a LOT of gas left in the tank. I can’t tell you how many depleted, exhausted walkers we passed between Miles 6 and 7. As we reached Oakland again and turned west, we were in fine spirits indeed and ready to go for another seven miles.

Sadly… fate had something else in store for us.

Just past the Mile 7 mark, we saw it approaching in the distance.

The Car.

We heard the announcer over the PA, the music blasting, the excitement mounting. Nervous runners looked back in horror, a horror that turned into smiles and laughter as everyone suddenly tripled-down and poured on the speed. God knows, we did. Goodbye to intervals, because Kristi and I broke into as hard a sprint as we could muster. And no, unlike last year, no one threw a cup of water in my face as I yelled “POUR IT ON!” at the top of my lungs to pep up the crowd around us.

NOPE!

NOPE!

We ran our hearts out, and managed to make it another good half-mile before we were finally lapped by the Catcher Car, just before NW 120TH Way on Oakland. Later on I found out my official distance was 7.8 miles in about 1 hour and 19 minutes, or an average pace of 10:14 minutes/mile. We could have run it faster, given how much energy we still had at the end. I ended up only getting 0.1 miles further along than last year. As it turns out, we were a bit too conservative with our pacing. So we’ll remember that for next year!

Here’s a quick pic I was able to grab of the Catcher Car once it had passed us (you can see it ahead of Red Bull truck in the left lane):

The Race is over, gang :(

The Race is over, gang :(

… here’s a pic that the Catcher Car took of us…

Stay back! Stay back!!

Stay back! Stay back!!

… and here’s a pic of Kristi and I celebrating our completion of the challenge!

Check out that sky. Perfect day for running!

Check out that sky. Perfect day for running!

After that, all that was left was to continue walking ahead until a shuttle pulled up to take us back to the BB&T Center… except that no shuttle ever arrived! We ended up walking the entire way back, which was just over a mile. I found this to be a little curious, as last year it was only about a 5-minute wait until the shuttle arrived to take us back. I suppose I could levy this as a “criticism” of the race, but neither of us minded at all. The walk provided for a nice cool-down, and we even passed a hydration stop to grab some water and Gatorade. It was a beautiful morning. The walk felt like a breeze.

We finally arrived back at the BB&T Center, where we received our race medals from people in wheelchairs, many of them former athletes themselves. A most cathartic moment if there ever was one. A look of gratitude filled their eyes, the enthusiasm and support they showed us was so genuine. So naturally we had to grab a picture:

Getting our race bling!

Getting our race bling!

Afterward, we were afforded complimentary water, Gatorade, Red Bull energy drinks, bananas, oranges… and this wondrous vision of delights right here:

. . .

. . .

I can sum up my response with one image:

COOKIE

I might have had a “few” of those soft, chewy, magical circles of awesomeness.

As we exited the chute and entered the Party Zone, we were handed a beer coupon and a coupon for some complimentary Food Truck eats. We beelined it for the beer, which (predictably) turned out to be Michelob Ultra. Again. We drank it anyway. Afterward we spent some time watching the giant video monitor, which was providing live footage of race coverage from around the world.

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The good news was that they set up rows of chairs for people to watch the live coverage! The bad news was, they were mostly filled by non-runners. Hey no problem guys, not like we just ran a whole bunch of miles and then had to walk back when no shuttles picked us up or anything. Sheesh!

We still were having fun anyhow. Lolo Jones was a no-show this year, which was a little disappointing. Oh well. I got my pic with her last year, hopefully I’ll get another one again soon. She’s more than a little dreamy… but at least those cookies made up for it!

So overall, the 2015 Wings For Life World Run was another rousing success! I didn’t think it was possible to have a better time this year than I did last year, but I really did. And for what a great cause! There were over twice as many runners worldwide in 2015 as there were in 2014, and even Sunrise managed to register 1,700 runners (although only about 1,300 showed up). As far as my own stats go, I placed 558th out of 1,293 runners in Sunrise. Globally, I was 40,263 out of 68,742. But this race wasn’t about pace and performance, but about being part of a really magical moment that was being celebrated around the world, to raise money for Wings For Life, and as they put it, to “run for those who can’t”.

So the only unanswered question right now is, “Would I do it again?”

Abso-friggin-lutely.

Abso-friggin-lutely.

May 8th, 2016 — count on it. Here’s the video:

Album Review: “Caress of Steel” — Rush (1975)

Rush_Caress_of_SteelRush produced a low-key but respectable debut with their 1974 self-titled album, emerging as an energetic (if slightly derivative) blues-hard rock power trio from the Great White North. With the departure of original drummer John Rutsey, the band thrived with drummer/primary lyricist Neil Peart joining guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, following up their debut with 1975’s Fly By Night, a minor hit that represented a major shift in the band’s sound. The songs became tighter, more complex, signifying a deeper sophistication in both the music and Peart’s literary, soaringly humanistic lyrics. It also included the first of what would be known as their ‘epic’ tracks, the rollicking battle cry of the nearly nine-minute “By-Tor & the Snow Dog”.

Rush toured relentlessly in 1975 to promote Fly By Night, returning to the studio that summer to record their next album Caress of Steel. The album erupted like a declaration of principles of sorts, as it represented a dramatic shift towards more long-form conceptual pieces, moving the band more towards the progressive end of the spectrum. Three-fourths of the album’s 45-minute length were taken up by only two tracks: the epic “The Necromancer” and “The Fountain of Lamneth” — the latter of which took up the entire Side 2 of the album!

Caress of Steel was released in September of 1975, and the results were pretty disastrous. Sales were dismal, the ensuing tour was poorly attended and saw them playing smaller and smaller venues. Critical reaction to the album was entirely disappointing as well. Even retrospective critiques remain pretty harsh; Caress of Steel is often dismissed by all but the most ardent of Rush fans. Album tracks like “Bastille Day” and “Lakeside Park” would remain in their set-list for a while (showing up on the 1976 live album All The World’s A Stage as part of their 2112 Tour), but the “epic” tracks would be almost immediately forgotten, except by band devotees.

The album is far from the disaster that history has made it out to be. Make no mistake, it has its missteps and a few moments of failure, but at least those moments stem from misguided ambition rather than inertial stagnation. There are moments of greatness and hints of greater successes to come. Of their entire 70s output, it ranks high for reach but lower on execution; probably the least essential album of their catalog until 1987’s Hold Your Fire. Casual fans evaluating the album would peruse the track listing and most likely not even bother with the record; it has no discernible “hits” or “fan favorites” (although the aforementioned “Lakeside Park” and “Bastille Day” would show up in compilation albums like Chronicles; the latter song would also appear in other collections like Retrospective I and Gold) and, with two tracks clocking at longer song-lengths than usual, would not present itself as one of their more ‘accessible’ records.

The album has its strengths, even if you have to cherry-pick quite a bit to find them. I find “The Necromancer” to be a little too watered-down Tolkien and a lot too watered-down Rush. It feels hollow and musically lacking at times, while the lyrics are second-rate Dungeons and Dragons mixed with somewhat embarrassing narration from an over-modulated Neil Peart. I do enjoy the feel of the Meddle-era Floyd “Into The Darkness” opening, and it ends pleasantly enough with a triumphantly melodic outro and some tasteful soloing from Lifeson, but the track feels unfocused and a structurally haphazard.

I much prefer the 20-minutes of “The Fountain of Lamneth”. The seedlings of later classics like “Xanadu”, “Natural Science”, the “Cygnus X-1″ two-part exploration, and portions of “2112” can be found here. Divided into six parts, the song details the journey throughout an entire life, from the explosion of birth, the natural rebellion of the learning process, doubt and abandonment, joy and acceptance, and finally death. Some sections are more interesting and more evocative than others, but the piece holds together fairly well and remains one of their more experimental and challenging efforts of the era; there’s certainly nothing close to this in the previous two albums, and it provides the springboard from which Rush would delve deeper into long-form progressive works. It’s not classic Rush, but it’s good Rush with flashes of even better Rush.

The remaining three tracks are the more traditional Rush-sounding songs. “Bastille Day” opens with Townshend-like guitar intensity and Plant-like piercing vocals as the band erupts into a howling rocker, one that would have fit right at home on Fly By Night. “Lakeside Park” is a mildly pleasant if unremarkable tune, a straightforward mid-tempo bit of childhood reminiscing from Peart. While the song is nothing much, it acquits itself as a reasonable album track — perhaps a step above filler.

And finally we get to “I Think I’m Going Bald”, which is the most bugfork tune on the entire album. Almost a novelty track of sorts, it was allegedly inspired by Kiss’s “Goin’ Blind” (Kiss and Rush toured extensively together in 1974) and with its bluesy rock backbone it could almost have sprung from their no-frills debut album. Making the connection of going grey and losing hair with that of lost dreams of youth, or some such nonsense, the song is messy, absolutely bananas, utterly pointless, and full of the posturing bravado that Rush seemed to pulling away from with their overall sound and ethos, and yet I somehow kind of love it, warts and all.

Caress of Steel is an appealing curiosity for those seeking to chart the band’s transition from traditional early 70s blues-rockers to the progressive hard-rock superstars of the late 70s. While casual fans would have little use for it and deeper fans might view it as a lesser effort (which, in light of their entire ‘classic’ catalog, would be an accurate assessment), there is still much to pick out of and enjoy from the record.

Taking a break from the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, or: “Just like ending my home…”

bored2Well I mean, it’s not like you asked…

So in less than an hour, registration for the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend will open up to the general public, and if it’s like any other year, much of it will sell it rather quickly. Certainly the Dopey Challenge, the 5K, and 10K will fill up within the hour. The individual Half, Full, and Goofy Challenge registrations will take a bit longer to reach capacity, but they eventually will. People will attend, many of them for the very first time, and have a wonderfully magical and entertaining fitness weekend in early January at the Happiest Place on Earth.

And for the first time since 2012, I won’t be there.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a worthwhile endeavor and a fantastic time to reunite with friends, enjoy the parks, celebrate the achievement of strapping on your shoes at 2:30 in the morning, waiting around for hours in the shivering cold (or draining heat and humidity) until it’s your time to cross that Start Line, and put those miles behind you for up to four mornings in a row. At a premium cost, of course. But I do get it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have attended four years in a row.

However, I’m largely burnt out on it. This really struck home while I was running the 2015 WDW Half Marathon: I’m kind of getting bored with all this.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and while I still have strong feelings towards the January race weekend, I think it’s time for a break.

So no, I won’t be attending next year. But that hardly means I’m abandoning Run Disney events. I’m still heading back to Anaheim at the end of the summer for the 2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, and I want a do-over after being thoroughly rained out during last year’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon so I’ll be back racing at the World in November.

And then there’s the little matter of the 2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend as well, which is a new race (for me) and an absolute must for this running/sci-fi nerd. And THAT event is a week after January race weekend at WDW.

My mantra of late has been more NEW races, less repeats. I really want to stick to that (with a few exceptions). Aside from Disneyland and Wine & Dine, I’m still registered to hit the Space Coast Marathon again, and will most likely hit up the Miami Beach Halloween Half for the third time because it’s a fun time (and local). But next year, my run club is planning on hitting both Rock N Roll New Orleans and the Marine Corps Marathon, and the excitement to tackle either of those dwarfs anything I could muster for scampering down World Drive again.

And don’t get me started on Rock N Roll Las Vegas, the OKC Memorial run, Cottonwood, Chicago, New York… Boston?? A man can dream.

So nope. I’m out this year. And I’m good with it. I’ll surely do it again somewhere down the road, but for 2016 we’re taking a break from the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

And I’m sure I’ll feel a tinge of regret next January when I see how much fun people are having. Because that’s how I roll. Gah. Here’s the video:

Race Review: 2015 Swim Miami (4/19/2015), or: “The heart, the brain, the body will give you three…”

blgswimmiamilogoWell this is a first for our blog: a “race review” that has nothing to do with running, but still is tagged under the “Running” umbrella. Have I mentioned one of my many professional functions is that of an information architect? You never woulda thunkit, huh? Sheesh…

Anyway, let’s move on from that frankly frivolous admission and talk about the 2015 Swim Miami event, held on the sunny morning of April 19, 2015, on Watson Island between Miami and Miami Beach. This was my first Open Water swim competition ever, and boy oh boy was I excited for it, and by “excited” I mean “nervous as hell, ‘Holy crap what was I thinking??’ levels of anxiety”. If you’ve been following Hokeyblog regularly — and if you haven’t, well hi there my new friend! — you’ll remember how I hadn’t ever done any ‘real’ swimming until February 2, 2015. Before that date, my swimming knowledge consisted entirely of Knowing How Not To Drown. I was never on any swim team, I never took lessons, I hadn’t practiced and trained or done continuous laps or anything of the sort. I was barely a step removed from the water wings crowd.

Dignity. Always, dignity.

But then some friends and I decided to register for the 2015 Egg Hunt Triathlon, which meant lots of training in the pool. That first day was barely a hair above disastrous, but quickly I grew to enjoy the art of swimming a great deal and found I took to it pretty quickly. It makes for a great workout, and for any runner, it’s fantastic cross-training. Soon enough I was doing laps three times a week and enjoying it immensely.

After completing the triathlon, I found out about Swim Miami from some friends who were participating in the 5K swim. After perusing the website, I found that the event offered four different races: 800m, 1-mile, 5K, and 10K. Not wanting to bite off any more than I could chew, I went with the 800 meter option. Look I might be a little cocky but I sure as heck ain’t a total chowderhead. Crawl before you run, folks.

Hmm. Now I want conch chowder…

Brr?

Brr?

So let’s get to the event proper. I had spent the previous morning on Saturday running 12 miles at the Hollywood Beach boardwalk with the run club. A beautiful morning with a stunning sunrise turned into an absolute scorcher of a day, and the 4 miles of planned sand-running didn’t quite pan out as expected; we made it a mile before my ankle started giving me issues. I didn’t want to risk an injury the day before the swim, so we ran the rest on pavement. Nonetheless, it was a pretty fun run. I had never been down to that area of Hollywood Beach before, so it was all new to me: the pier, the trails, the scenery, the epic amount of stray kitties watching us with a mix of pity, bemusement, and/or contempt, and so on. All I can say is God Bless the Marriott Hotel there, because the public restrooms don’t open until 7AM, which is something of an anathema to us IBD types. Hrmph.

After grabbing breakfast and heading home for a quick shower and change, Boots and I made the schlep down to Miami to attend registration at the Miami Yacht Club, the location for the event the next day. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived there, but I found the registration tent very quickly and with absolutely no wait whatsoever. It was a stunning afternoon by the water. After I received my swim cap, race shirt, and other promotional goodies (mostly protein shake powder and ear plugs), I walked onto the beach to eavesdrop to the seminar going on there. We didn’t stay long but it sounded pretty informative to me. I’m still new to all of this, so every little bit helped.

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Afterward we hit up Moe’s for a quick dinner and retired to our home in Sunrise for an early evening. I was a little nervous about the next day. I knew I was more than ready to go the distance, but this was open water, and salt water at that. I could do it. I knew I could. But it was still an unknown entity, and the X factor of it all was getting to me. Quashing those nerves as best as I could, I was finally asleep before 10 PM for my 5 AM wake-up.

Race Day

I woke up promptly at 5 in the morning, loaded for bear as it were. Not an ounce of sleep or fatigue left in my system, I shot out of bed ready to take on the challenge of the day. After a quick breakfast of a Clif Bar (I tend not to eat much before a workout or event anymore; my conditions being what they are, I’d rather not have a nervous stomach issue), I changed into my compression shorts and threw on a long-sleeve tech shirt. Then I gathered up everything I needed for my travel bag: towel, change of clothes, race swim cap, flip-flops, Endurolytes, Gu, wallet, phone, race instructions… pretty much everything I felt I needed.

Everything… except for one, pretty much vital piece of equipment:

Oops...

Oops…

My race was scheduled to begin at 8:00 AM. Since this was all new to me, I wanted to be at the site no later than 7:00. Worried about race day traffic and lane closures because of the South Beach Triathlon occurring on the same morning, we left the house at 5:50 AM. I didn’t realize I had left my goggles at home until we were a good 20 minutes away from the house, speeding down the highway. Just passing Joe Robbie Stadium on the Turnpike (I still call it Joe Robbie Stadium, because reasons…), like a bucket of ice water splashed directly into my soul, the realization struck. The goggles were still at home, in my other gym bag. I had no idea if they’d be selling any at the event (like they were the previous day at registration) so I had no choice. Getting off on 27th Avenue and making a U-Turn, we beelined it back home as fast as we could. I rushed in, grabbed my goggles, and rushed back out, cursing up such a storm that it would make a crusty Marine drill sergeant ask me to use my inside voice. It was now around 6:35 AM, and I was still in Sunrise, trying to make it to Watson Island by no later than 7:30 AM, with the real threat of race-day traffic and lane closures… it’s safe to say the Anxiety Clock was resting comfortably at 11:57 PM.

Boots could tell I was stressed beyond capacity, so she took over the wheel and drove us there. The girl can drive, I’ll tell you what. Her lead-foot, steel-knuckled guidance got us there and parked at the Parrot Jungle Island garage by 7:13 AM. I was absolutely relieved. I still had time to pick up my timing chip, get my markings, and putz around on the beach until it was time for the 800m Men’s Heat to take off at 8:00 AM.

Then I caught a gander of this:

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Next to the registration tent was a loud, angry, confused, crowded mob of people standing around aimlessly. There were a handful of “lines” but nobody could really tell what those lines were for. Some people said they were in the line to pick up their timing chips. Other people claimed they were in line to register and check-in. Often the same people were in the same lines. There was absolutely no direction whatsoever until a bored-looking woman munching on a bagel and cream cheese casually announced that the registration was on the left and timing chips were on the right. She announced this in a voice barely more audible than a hoarse whisper. Two separate lines then began feeding into the timing chip line, with people in each line claiming that those waiting in the other had to get behind them. Nothing doing. It was an ugly, crowded, confused, messy scene.

I had no idea what I was doing. So I just made this face:

"I don't know what I'm doing!"

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”

… and hoped for the best. In the meantime I struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me, who had just achieved her Master’s Certification in swimming (whatever that is, I’m sure it’s impressive) and was quick to gauge me as a tourist. I told her I was a runner who just recently participated in a triathlon and that this was my first time to this particular rodeo. In a mockingly good-natured way, with a wry smile she said, “Oh you’re a runner. We can always pick you guys out at triathlon training classes; you all sink like a stone…” I took it in stride. It’s not like newbie runners aren’t the same on their first race, what with walking five abreast and wearing a Camelbak to a 5K or running a Half while wearing the race “I did it!” shirt, etc.

Still, go suck eggs, lady. Hrmph!

By 7:45 I finally had my timing chip. Getting it was a mad free-for-all at the chip distribution table, but somehow I managed. I was finally outside and made it to the beach… only to discover that the limited area there was already taken up by hundreds of swimmers, along with their friends, family, and supporters. People had laid out blankets and lined up chairs and there wasn’t really a single place to sit or stand anywhere!

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Boots found a spot on a nearby dock to sit, and I stayed with her a bit, trying to assuage my pre-race jitters. Gunning down a vanilla Muscle Milk with my Endurolyte capsule, it was time to make my way down onto the beach. My heat was supposed to start at 8:00, and I wanted to be ready before go-time. We started in the water, so the Men’s 800m participants soon found themselves waist-deep, several yards from the shoreline. There we waited… and waited… and waited. First it was “two minutes until start time”… then “five minutes”… then “two minutes” again… I didn’t have my watch on me so I couldn’t tell you exactly when we started, but it seems we were about 20 minutes late when the race finally began.

Boots managed to capture these snapshots of us sitting around waiting:

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After the National Anthem, the announcer led the crowd in a 10 second countdown and with that we were off! I went from standing waist-deep in water into full swimming form, where I spent the first two minutes or so dodging feet and arms and bodies and playing all sorts of defense until my 6-foot-2 frame had enough space to really get my freestyle going on. I knew a few things had to happen here: I had to follow race directions regarding what buoys to turn at, know which side of the buoy I needed to be on at each turn, maintain my sighting so I wouldn’t start veering off in the wrong direction, and somehow try to maintain form, focus, breathing, and energy.

The first turn was at the White buoy, which was the only buoy I had to pass on the right. By the time I passed it, there was a lot more space for me to focus on form. I also came to realize that open water swimming, especially with a bit of chop, is a lot trickier than doing laps in the pool. You’re not only trying to maintain thrust and buoyancy as best you can, you’re also bouncing up and down a lot more often than you’re familiar with. Also: swallowing salt water really sucks eggs.

Still, I kept going. I was really feeling the swim; it felt like a lot more of a struggle than I was used to. Not that it was hard or difficult, but that it required more effort than usual. I decided just to focus on my form and breathing and finish the race strong and consistent, rather than try for speed. I’m no speed demon anyhow, so who cares, right? It’s always about form!

"Smooth strokes. Up and down. Paint... don't tickle. And don't smoke!"

“Smooth strokes. Up and down. Paint… don’t tickle. And don’t smoke!”

Right before the Red buoy, which marked the turnaround point of the race, I was passed by the first female swimmer. The women’s heat took off a few minutes after ours, so the elites in that group were already zipping past us slower dudes. Good for them. I just kept my head down and swam on. Well, not TOTALLY down. I did have to breathe once or twice. After the turnaround it was just concentration and movement, and realizing that I needed to work much harder on my sighting. My goggles were starting to fog up, and the chop in the water made it difficult to see exactly where I was heading sometimes. Thankfully, I didn’t drift into oncoming swim traffic, but I had to be VERY cognizant of which direction I was heading at all times. It was easy to get confused for a first-timer.

Then there was This One Guy… he kept trying to cut me off. As I went to pass him on the left, he immediately moved to shut the door on me by drifting quickly to his port side. When I couldn’t move any further left I dropped back and tried to go by on his right. Same thing, only this time to the starboard. What a nozzle. I finally said to hell with this and made a sharp 45 degree angle to the right and drifted out of the tangent line. He immediately moved to counter, but realized I was angling to far out for him to do the same and maintain his lead, so he kept going in his direction.

I was NOT going to let this guy beat me. I had no idea what I was doing, but like HELL he was going to come in ahead of me. I angled back the other direction and hit the water as hard and as fast as I could. After making the final turnaround at the last Red buoy, I zipped right ahead of him. In fact, I zipped a little too far ahead as I veered too far to the left. One of the guides on a paddle board saw this and starting yelling out, “To the right, to the right, to the right!!” several times to me. I gave her the thumbs up and angled myself towards the Finish banners. I was only slightly off course, but I wanted to make sure I finished ahead of That Guy.

Boots took these pics of booth of us, swimming towards the shore and standing up to jog to the Finish once we were in wading distance:

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Does that guy in the distance have a TON of sunscreen on, or was he one of the Engineers from the movie “Prometheus”? Ahh I forget…

Anyway I pushed past the Finish mat, a little tired but happy and grateful to be done. I also finished 2 seconds ahead of That Guy, so take that! Anyway, I really liked and appreciated the swim, garnering a new respect for open water swimming as something that takes more discipline than a whole lot of 50m pool lap excursions. But in all honesty, I felt a little disappointed right then and there. I thought I should have done better, even for a first-timer. I felt I shouldn’t have been as worn out as I was. I wasn’t sad or dejected, just really determined to do better next time. After grabbing my medal and returning my timing chip, I found Boots by the dock. I think we were both ready to leave. My race was done, it was hot, loud, and extremely crowded, and I was ready for some breakfast, coffee, and sanity.

We did manage to take one final shot:

Smiley Boy returns!

Smiley Boy returns!

… after which I dried off, changed, and we returned to our car for a quick getaway. I don’t own a swim watch, so I had no idea what my time was (and it was so congested in the event area, I couldn’t even tell if there was a location where you could find out your results). I felt I had gone slower than normal, but that was OK for a first time. By the time we got to the Long Island Cafe in Sunrise, I was already over worrying about results. After a brief wait, we were seated and soon I had that awesome cup of hot java I so desperately needed. I was feeling relaxed, comfortable, completely zen when the results finally posted… and my jaw hit the floor:

swimmiamistats

The return of the Quantitative Analysis!

 

My 800m time was 17:38. I think that’s my fastest pace ever… certainly in any kind of swimming competition, but even in training too. I swam 400m at the Egg Hunt Tri in 09:40, which was a 38:40 minute/mile pace. This time around, I swam double that distance at a 35:28 minute/mile pace. In other words, opposite of how I thought I performed, I was actually swimming faster than ever. No wonder I had felt so tired at the end!

And then of course the statistics. Because numbers. Overall, I was 65th out of 137, which put me in the top 48%. For men, I was 36th out of 82, which puts me in the top 44%. And in my Division (Men 40-44), I was 3rd out of…

Wait wait wait… hold the phone… what?

I came in third?

THIRD??

Third place?? I mean, they only awarded the Overall men and women per category, so it’s not like this was anything that special or recognized… but I’ve never placed in the Top 3 in my category in any race/event before. So holy crap… I think I’m onto something here. Maybe I might know what I’m doing?

Needless to say, that ended up being the best post-race breakfast ever :)

In conclusion, I was happy with my performance that morning, given my limited swimming experience and my initial impression that somehow I had underperformed. My takeaway from the 2015 Swim Miami, on the other hand, was a little disappointing. I found the event to be highly crowded, very disorganized, a bit ramshackle and definitely lacking in the communication department. The swim itself was great; it just seemed everything around it was a total mishegas. I do understand that things this year were a lot different; the South Beach Triathlon occurring on the same day forced a lot of last-minute timeline changes, requiring all participants to arrive together before lane closures began on the MacArthur Causeway at 7:30, resulting in a mad rush at the registration lines and too much crowding on the beach. So perhaps this year was an anomaly, forcing the organization into making a bunch of late-4th-quarter changes to the playbook. Understandable, but still quite disappointing to this first-timer. Would I participate in this event again? Maybe, but not for the 800m. Next time I’m gunning for the 5K. I’ve got a year to train for it. Plus, you know… I came in third for my division! That calls for the video:

Jeff Galloway’s Training and Motivation Tips #5, or: “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream…”

blggalloway

Welcome back to the fifth of our ongoing presentation of Jeff Galloway’s Training and Motivation Tips! In collaboration with famed running guru and awesome dude Jeff Galloway, we here at Hokey Industries Ltd. are positively brimming with excitement to share these nuggets of awesomesauce with you, our highly discriminating readers who demand excellence at every instance.

For your reading pleasure, Jeff’s tips will be in blue, whereas my comments will be in… not blue. Rather than talk this up any more than I already have and risk alienating your wistful, joyous interest, I’ll just clam up and let Jeff take it away.

Four Ways To Energize Your Day & Clear Your Brain
By Olympian Jeff Galloway
www.RunInjuryFree.com

It’s natural to become focused on the big things in life, and worry about outside forces, building stress. A few simple lifestyle adjustments can result in greater control over attitude and energy, while reducing stress and fatigue. Yes, you can exert more control over your life, produce positive attitude hormones, and blend together body, mind and spirit by planning and taking action.

Not much to add here. So I won’t.

Walk or run, one day and a walk (or cross train) the next. While the exertion will wake up the muscles, you’re away from the phone, allowing the mind a little freedom. Most who start with a blank mental state, finish their exercise session with the day planned, and a few new ways to deal with problems. Others like to walk/run during lunch hour, while munching on an energy bar. This can clear out morning stress and prepare mind-body for the challenges of the afternoon. Many evening exercisers believe that the weight of the day’s stress is erased or contained with the after-work workout. Scheduling these outings gives you control over your existence.

Yeah you know, everyone has their favorite time to work out during the day. Mornings are probably my favorite, and I’d be a strict morning dude if I didn’t require roughly 80 hours of sleep every night. But that’s when I have the most energy, the strongest enthusiasm, and it’s when I come away from my workout with the most positive attitude, ready to absolutely ANNIHILATE any upcoming obstacles that day. Midday workouts are hard, mostly because like many I work normal office hours. I’ve done the midday rush to the gym, do some time with weights or treadmill, shower, and hurry back to the office many times, but usually it’s because I wasn’t able to exercise that morning or later that evening.

And after work? I’m usually physical and mentally drained, and absolutely LOATHING the prospect of doing anything requiring the slightest hint of exertion. But once it’s done, I feel tired but very even, extremely centered, maybe a bit physically drained but also emotionally liberated. It’s just harder to light the fuse after work than it is at any other time.

But there’s never a bad time. And if you can only get those workouts in after your work day ends, do what I do: pack a gym bag with your clothes/gear and get the workout in BEFORE YOU GO HOME. Because once you’re in your comfort zone at the end of the day, it’s agony leaving it again.

"8x400m sprints tonight? Yeah gimme a minute..."

“8x400m sprints tonight? Yeah gimme a minute…”

Don’t sit–walk!. The addition of a few extra short walks, throughout the day, will energize the body and activate the mind. Park farther away from work, the food store, the transit station, etc. Many of my clients use a step counter for motivation and calorie counting. It helps to find one that is consistent and reliable (usually @ $30). Shoot for 10,000 steps a day. You are rewarded for getting out of your chair (or the couch) more often. These short walks burn fat, which adds up (up to 30 pounds a year!). The best reward is the head clearing effect, which can power you through the mid morning or mid afternoon energy crises. Even a 3-4 minute “recess” walk at work, can result in clearer thinking, more energy, and greater self-confidence.

Guilty as charged. I get my sweat on 5-6 days a week, but working in IT I find myself sitting flat on my Royal American for hours on end. Not good. Keep that metabolism rolling as much as you can.

Eat more frequently. Each time you eat, even a small snack, you’ll boost your energy level. The longer you wait to eat, the more likely your metabolism will slump into drowsiness and laziness. This also means that you’re not burning many calories. If you divide up your daily calorie budget into 6-9 snacks a day you’ll burn more fat (up to 10 pounds a year). Eat a snack every 2-3 hours, and you can feel better all day. It helps to choose foods that have (percentage of calories vs total calories) about 20% protein, about 15% fat and the rest in complex carbohydrate. This combination will leave you satisfied longer with fewer calories consumed. To experience a fat loss, consumption can be managed through websites or journals. For more information, see A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO FAT BURNING by Jeff and Barbara Galloway.

Speaking of keeping your metabolism rolling… animals are natural grazers. The whole 3-meal-a-day thing is our normal cycle, but think about it — that’s a huge spike of metabolic activity, followed by several hours of low activity, then another huge spike, then another lull, and so forth. Keeping the body burning calories over time maintains your RPMs level and active. Just do it healthy and smart. No Little Chocolate Donuts, please.

Still funny.

Still funny.

Help someone exercise. The psychological benefits are significant when you help someone improve the quality of their life. Offer to walk (run, hike) with your spouse, parent, friend co-worker, child—or all of the above. My books WALKING & GETTING STARTED have proven programs with motivation which can lead you and your “coach-ee” through the training.

There’s nothing like being showered with gratitude by someone whose life was dramatically improved with your effort and caring. Just be mindful, though, that there’s a very thin line between “helpful assistance” and “pushy know-it-all’ism”. And as always, what works for you may be completely deleterious for someone else. Advise, but don’t impose.

That’s it for today’s tips, gang. Hope you enjoyed them and found much to learn and think about. And if not, why here’s the video:

Album Review: “Hold Your Fire” — Rush (1987)

blgholdyourfireThe highest compliment you can give Rush’s 1987 release Hold Your Fire is that, despite the further descent into/evolution towards 80s proggy-synth pop, the music still sounds quintessentially Lee/Lifeson/Peart. While the tableau onto which the band expressed their creative talents is a radical shift from the hard-hitting rock of the mid 70s, the epic discovery mode of the late 70s, or even mining the fertile analog/digital sonic mindscape of the early 80s, the resulting late 80s pop sheen remains easily identifiable as the product of a band perpetually in creative motion.

Hold Your Fire is also often listed as one of the band’s “weaker” albums by fans, held up as the “nadir” of Rush’s 80s synth-driven excesses. It certainly wasn’t a big commercial success; while it did go Gold in the US and spouted two hit US Mainstream Rock Tracks (“Force Ten” and “Time Stand Still”, both of which hit #3), it was the first Rush album since Hemispheres in 1978 to not break the “top ten” Billboard 200, as well as being the first Rush album not to go Platinum since 1975’s Caress of Steel. A commercial rebuke of sorts (although far from a disaster), but given an expanse of over two-and-a-half decades since the album’s release, one can take a long view appraisal of the album in light of Rush’s extensive catalog, creative dynamics, iconoclastic self-assurance, etc. etc.

And yet I’m still not much of a fan.

I’ll get the big two out-of-the-way, and state that I do enjoy the album’s Hit Singles. “Force Ten” has a sense of drive and urgency wrapped around a strong meditative core. I love the feel of the song, fluid and nimble in its infectious current. “Time Stand Still” probably ranks as one of the band’s best pure pop singles, shimmering and melodic and catchy without measure (the inclusion of Aimee Mann’s background vocals over the chorus underscores the song’s mass appeal beyond the core faithful).

Both songs compromise the opening two album tracks. After that it’s a decisively hit-or-miss affair… or as it turns out, often a hit-and-miss affair. I find the whole not entirely bigger than the sum of its parts; often I’ll find the music pleasing whereas the lyrics seem trite, or vice versa. Sometimes the song is perfectly pleasant and agreeable but ultimately forgettable, and reacting to art with a resounding “meh” is probably more damning to the artist than a verdict of absolute revulsion.

That’s probably the biggest weakness with Hold Your Fire — while it does hit some high marks, overall it simply doesn’t generate much response from the listener. A song like “Open Secrets” is musically intriguing but not essential, whereas “Second Nature” has some fascinating lyrics that are unfortunately drenched with 80s musical banality. “Prime Mover” hits an agreeable spot of lyrics and music that provides for a notable song, as does the uptempo exploration of “Lock and Key”, but they never really muster pass the level of “fine” or “decent”. There’s nothing therein compelling me to return, except to look at the album’s track list and think to myself, “Oh yeah, that’s an OK tune” or “That one ain’t bad”…

It feels like the songs could almost be great, if not for some deficiency. “Mission” has a rising, anthemic quality that I very much enjoy, but it’s entirely rooted in a flattened album aesthetic that feels less musically assertive than it should. A classic example of a piece requiring a little less think and a lot more feel (as an aside, a common critique leveled at Rush is that they are only a “Thinking Man’s Band, Devoid of Feeling or Emotion”, a critique I would categorically deny any day of the week and twice on Simchas Torah). This is rectified by “Turn The Page”, arguably the album’s best track, a superior tune that rises above its limitations (mostly the aforementioned flat album aesthetic) into an undeniably strong track. If you find yourself doing some cherry-picking throughout the band’s “less acclaimed” LPs, this is definitely one to extract from the pile.

I won’t say much about “Tai Shan”, except that I appreciate its creative ambitions and diversity. Meanwhile, Geddy Lee is on record as to admitting the song is an “error”. I’ll just say that, while not a notably successful endeavor, it’s more interesting to me than, say, “Open Secrets”, “Second Nature”, or “Mission” in the sense that it’s at least trying to shake things up a bit. You can’t say the same for album closer “High Water”, a well-meaning but ultimately lifeless ending to an album that could easily (if a bit unfairly) be described as “well-meaning but ultimately lifeless”.

Hold Your Fire has its moments as a Rush album, but ultimately it breeds a little bit of muzzled praised and a fair host of indifference. Come for the singles and “Turn The Page”, while cherry-picking the rest at your leisure.

2015 Egg Hunt Triathlon Video

And we’re back. I want to thank everyone who responded favorably to our post about the 2015 Egg Hunt Triathlon, whether it was on the blog, on Facebook or Twitter, in emails, telepathic inundation, needlecast consciousness transmission, smoke signals, and so forth. That post got a lot of kudos from a lot of people and I’m entirely grateful for it. Lots of love in this room, folks. Let’s dim the lights a bit…

lightsout

OK so as John Cleese’s Vocational Guidance Counselor would put it, “Enough of this gay banter!” I wanted to add one last bit of awesomeness dealing with that wonderful event. Our buddy Tyler Phelps over at Vantage Point Aerials shot this amazing video of highlights from the race. It’s a beautiful presentation and I thought you — our adoring audience — might enjoy seeing some of what this great event had to offer. Most of it is drone footage, and it’s really quite breathtaking. Give it a whirl.

Oh, one last thing: if you’re wondering whether or not I am in the video, rest assured that I am. Multiple times. I’ll let you guys do the Where’s Waldo’ing here, but here’s one little clue as to where you might find me…

tri_video_ass

What is it about me, race pictures, and showing off my Royal American lately? *sigh* OK never mind that. Here’s the awesome video:

MultiRace Egg Hunt Triathlon/Duathlon – 2015 Official Video from Vantage Point Aerials on Vimeo.