Friday, March 27, 2009

New song: It's a real good day

I wrote this one for Daniel. I got the guitar part and some of the harmonies down on Wednesday and finished the lyrics this morning. You can listen to the song on the player on this page.

Here are the lyrics:
I never told you how
One time I thought that I was having a bad day
A real bad day
And then I woke you up
You told me about a dream you'd had
You were flying without wings

And then you picked me up
Flew over Union Station
Saw our old house on Alt de Pedrell
Somewhere between blue and Barcelona
I knew it was a real good day

It's a real good day for changing my point of view
(things can only get better/and right now is forever)
It's a real good day for spending my day with you
(got to live for the moment / ain't no time like the present)

The city's waking up
The guy next door is singing loud in the shower
The cell phone rings

I climb in next to you
And listen to you breathing, now I am snoring
Just let it ring

And now we are so high
The earth is just another dot in a sky full of stars in the night
Now you look at me and laugh like sunshine
Today, it is a real good day

It's a real good day for sleeping in the whole day through
(leave tomorrow tomorrow, today is getting away)
It's a real good day for spending my day with you
(just forget all that sorrow / we have only today)
It's a real good day for changing my point of view
(things can only get better / and right now is forever)
It's a real good day for spending my day with you
(got to live for the moment / ain't no time like the present)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

HAT 50K - 6:59:30: My first ultramarathon

Predictably, I couldn't sleep last night-- I tossed and turned and got about three hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 4. I reviewed my checklist, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and went and waited to get picked up by my new ultramarathoning friend, Jimm.

It was cold this morning. We headed up to Havre de Grace and sat in the parking lot, shivering, waiting for packet pickup to start. I really was pretty unsure as to what to wear. I had brought a lot of stuff to put on. I got lucky today and hit the right combination. Arm sleeves (affectionately known as "arm panties") are key, I found out. I felt pretty silly putting them on, but they were perfect. I was freezing at the starting line, but the temperature fluctuated all during the race. I was glad I could roll my sleeves up and down. I have a very funky tan on my forearms now, though.

I learned a few things out there today. I thought about it as I ran: In a 31 mile race like this, you have to get it all right on several points:
  • Logistics - in a 10k, you put your shoes on and run. Marathon and above, your race can end because you wore the wrong socks or made a bad choice of hydration systems. At a minimum, you can be miserable for a long, long time.

  • Awareness - this was a trail run, and there were roots to trip on, branches to brain yourself with, and trail markers to miss. I missed the 27 mile marker and almost ran off the course! Thank god someone yelled at me and I ran back, sheepishly. You have to crank up your awareness, even though tiredness makes you want to drift off into la la land.

  • Efficiency - at this distance, it's not about being the strongest and fastest. A lot of it is about expending the least amount of energy. I found myself shortening up my strides and just grinding up the hills. I remembered how pounded my legs would feel at the end of my 22 mile training runs, and I knew that if I didn't take care of them, it would be a lot worse at the 30 mile point.

  • Determination - it just takes pushing through sometimes, the determination to stick to concentrating on good running form, and running when you feel like lying down. This sounds trite, but this was key, especially when I really hit a rough patch around mile 28.

So that's my formula for getting through the 31 miler: LAED. Either get LAED, or you get screwed.

At one point I looked down at my GPS watch just as it clicked over 26.2 miles. I had just run a standard marathon distance and I still had about five miles to go. A few steps later, I realized that I had just run further than I had ever run in my life. In fact, every step I took was the farthest I had ever run. Wow.

Some great people out on the trail helped me. The volunteers in this race were magic. There were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Chips Ahoy cookies at the second rest stop, and I am sure that I have never tasted a better PB&J in my entire life. I really don't understand what motivates race volunteers. Those people froze for eight hours and prepared food for sweaty, sometimes grumpy runners. Maybe it's just my depleted glycogen reserves talking, but I love those people.

And the other runners encouraged me. When they heard it was my first ultra, they gave me advice, salt pills, and encouragement. At mile 28 I started to fade really badly. I knew I would finish, but I had no idea how it was going to happen. I just wanted to lay down. A lady from Annapolis whose name I never learned ran up alongside, and I just whispered, "I'm really having a rough patch." She listened to me for a while, and eventually we started running again. She ran with me for about two miles, until we could hear the crowds cheering at the finish line. By then my adrenaline had kicked in and I really started running again.

My last mile was one of the fastest of the race. As I ran up the field, I could see Jimm waiting at the finish pavilion. He ran out to me and started yelling for me to pick it up. I heard one specific thing: "Tim, there's food". I yelled back, "Jimm, tell me about the food". He told me there were hot dogs and soup and Jambalaya. I yelled back, "Jambalaya?! Let's go!". We ran in as fast as we could. Jimm had finished the race more than half an hour before and still paced me in. I'm sure I could not have sprinted it in without him (okay, I am being very generous with myself saying "sprint").

When we turned the corner and I could see the finisher's clock, I could not believe that it was at 6:59:25. I was going to break seven hours! I put in a final push and crossed the line in 6:59:30. One of the race organizers congratulated me and gave me a hat (of course) and a stadium chair. No medals were awarded-- and I'm not sure I wanted one. I've got my medal right here inside.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Night before the HAT 50K

Tomorrow is the HAT 50K run. It will be my first ultramarathon, and the farthest I have ever run in my life (if I finish!). I'm not nervous... okay, a little. Over the last couple of long runs I've made a list of stuff to carry:

Pre race: Bike Shorts, Blinker, Butt pack, Camelback, GUs, Garmin chest strap, Garmin watch, ID, Credit card, Injinji toe socks (two pairs), Insurance Card, Keys, Lucky Towel, Money, Montrails, Nike Trail Runners, Nike Blue Shirt, Phone Carrier, Reflective vest, Road ID, Support underwear, Toilet paper, Water bottle, Whistle

Post race: Jeans, shirt, new socks, sandals, money, sandwich?, camera?

The HAT is logistically easier because I'll pass back through the starting point several times during the race. Then I can make any equipment changes I may need to make. I'm getting picked up by another runner at 5 am. I'm truly exhausted, but if this goes anything like previous races I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Someday I'll look back at this and laaaaugh.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Songwriting Cliches

I finished off February Album Writing Month with fourteen songs written: mission accomplished. And oddly, I've gone back down to write twice at 5 am this month as well. I didn't expect to want to continue, but I did.

A question came up on the songwriting forum for FAWM: "what are your musical cliches?" In other words, what words, musical themes, etc keep showing up again and again. Kind of like the word "Sunshine" in James Taylor's old stuff.

Here was my answer:

Mine are simple:
1) Lots of E6. I get extra excited if I can end a song on E6. At least three of my songs started in E6 this year (wait... 4... 5... shit, all of them did) (If you don't know what E6 sounds like, the Beatles use it to end "Help!")
2) 7th chords. I just wrote one with E6 into A7 and I thought I saw Jeebus (This morning in "Deer in Headlights").
3) Most of my songs have the word "darkness" in them somewhere. I think this has less to do with any emotional darkness and more to do with the fact that my family life requires me to get up at 5 am to write.
4) I almost always have a section of two or three voice parts going "Dah... Dah dah dah duh". My seven year old son pointed this out to me.
5) I won't write a song in which the primary phrase is three chords. I'll mess up a perfectly good song just so it will have a more complex chord progression.
6) Three part harmony!
7) Oh, and finishing the song by singing the first line of the song again, slowly for dramatic effect (pause to barf on self). I did this on like 16 of the 14 songs I wrote this time.