Wednesday, June 13, 2018

LIVE MUSIC REVIEW:IMAGINE DRAGONS


Last week my girls and I went to see Imagine Dragons at the XFinity Center down in Mansfield, MA.  It was their first concert and all week leading up to it they were ridiculously excited.  I'll admit that I was equally as excited, maybe more so, both to see live music and to share it with them.  The show was on Wednesday night which happened to be their last day of school so it was the perfect way for us to celebrate.  Fortunately for them, I ponied up for seats because I'm too old to sit on the lawn and because I'm too old to have to deal with those who choose to sit on the lawn.  Not that I'm judging.  I was a lawn goer many years ago.  But, I'll leave that for another time.  As far as "mom moments" go, this night was easily one of my favorites.  Initially, I wanted Grace, my younger daughter, to write this post because out of the three of us she was by far the most moved by the whole experience.  I tried to spin it as something cool she could do, maybe together with me; as an opportunity to tell her side of the story.  Yea, no.  She's got way more important things going on like going downtown with her BFF to get TicTacs from CVS.  It's fair.  She's 11.  So, I'll do my best to break it down for you from my end.  Here's how our night played out...


And we're off.  The show started at 7:00 and it would take us at least an hour to get down there.  Grace Vanderwaal was the opening act and we didn't want to miss it. We figured we had plenty of time in leaving at 5:00.  We put some tunes on and settled in.


Well, we were sort of off.  We rolled right into stop and go traffic the minute we got onto the highway.  Definitely a bummer but no surprise leaving Boston at 5:00.  It was fine, we were still giddy.  At that point, Grace had my phone and decided she was going to document the evening while also keeping herself entertained.


We arrived around 6:30 along with the other ten million people going to see Imagine Dragons with us.  WHAT?!  For real.  It was total madness.  There was a snake line of cars for miles.  Think 'Field of Dreams'.  We finally parked and then walked a solid 10 minutes to the front gate.  Both girls were starving once we got in so we assessed the food situation, eventually landing on hot dogs, hamburgers and popcorn.  Super healthy.  Very proud of our choices.


At 7:00pm Grace Vanderwaal came on.  This gal is 14 years old and she has got some serious pipes.  She's definitely got a pop thing going on but she also has this husky almost folksy voice which is a unique combo and sets her apart from the T-Swizzles and Arianas of the moment.  On top of that, she's just freaking adorable.  She crushed it.  The girls loved her.  I did, too.  Keep an eye on this one.


As we waited for Imagine Dragons to come on my Grace, once again, got a hold of my phone.  We had way to much fun taking dumb pictures of ourselves.  When I looked back, there were at least 20 of them on my phone.  I spared you and just shared some of our best or worst, depending on how you look at it.  Yes, we are dorks.  But it did help us pass the time.  


Right before things started Grace said, "It's weird, Mom.  I thought it would be crazier than this.  I didn't think people would be sitting down and things would be this mellow."  I told her to just sit tight. That the scene would be changing very soon.  Then, as soon as the lights went down and the band came right out with Radioactive at full volume, I looked over to see Grace making the above "EEK" face.  I don't usually go to these big shows anymore and forgot how loud they are.  Tack on the fact that this was her first rodeo and the impact was doubled.  I think she was in a state of shock for the first couple songs but she finally adjusted.  Rosie, on the other hand, had no issues at all and immediately found her groove.  Cool as a cucumber, that kid.


For some of their mellow songs the fans would lift their phones for the lighter effect which is now what people do given that actual lighters are no longer allowed inside.  Grace asked if she could use my phone to join in.  Of course I gave it to her.  I can't lie, the scene was so damn cool.


To be honest, I am not a huge Imagine Dragons fan.  Or, at least, I wasn't before this.  I like them, but it was the girls' choice.  I didn't really care as I was just happy to treat them and obviously wanted their first experience to be with a band that they were fired up about.  But, man, did these guys put on a show.  Lead singer, Dan Reynolds, has this incredible charisma that ropes you in from the second he steps on stage.  He's magnetic and when he sings he's able to make it personal despite the fact that he is singing to thousands and that, at least in our case, he was like a mile away.  He is so clearly thrilled to be out there doing what he loves that it's hard to take your eyes of him.  Hailing from Nevada, the band has a  classic 'rock' vibe with a little bit of punk mixed in.  What was cool when I looked around was to see the make up of the audience which varied from kids to teens to thirty somethings and beyond.  There is no question that they have a mass appeal, but there is something simple and beautiful in that.  They just put it out there and you can take it for what it is.  Rosie and Grace didn't know half of the songs.  They didn't care.  They were totally mesmerized.  It was amazing to watch their reactions which were just so raw and real.


Something worth noting.  The tour is centered around their latest album entitled Evolve.  Throughout the performance, Reynolds spoke openly to the audience about his battle with depression and how he recently sought out help while encouraging others who struggle to do the same.  They were powerful words to hear during a time when things in our country are somewhat unpredictable and unstable and I know the girls were not only listening but also understanding and digesting all of it.  Never in my 43 years have I been to a show where an artist has exposed himself like Reynolds did and I was floored by his openness and honesty and moved by his message which was that those who struggle are not broken they just need to get help.  You can read more about his story here.


Around 10:00pm I got the sense that the girls were starting to fade.  No doubt it had been a long day for them and the stimulation from the show alone was doubling their level of exhaustion.  I told them I was ready to go whenever they were.  They'd say, "let's see what this one last song is and we'll go after that," which made me smile because I often find myself doing the same thing when I'm at a show.  I also smiled because it was so clearly hard for them to pull themselves away.  Despite how tired they were, they just didn't want to miss out.  I know that feeling well, too.  We ended up staying until the last song and left during the middle of it so we could beat some of the traffic.  Did we buy shirts on our way out?  Yes we did.  Were they stupidly expensive?  Yes, they were.  But, I wanted the girls to hold on to this for as long as they can.  I still remember my first show.  I remember the feeling of it, the scene, the noise, all of it.  I was as young as them and I don't even think I liked the band but it didn't matter.  Something magical happened and my world was forever changed.  I know the same thing happened for Rosie and Grace.  I watched it unfold, the shift almost tangible.  Music is so incredibly powerful and to share it with them was...well...it's almost impossible to put it into words.  But hopefully you get it.  Go see live music.  With your kids, with your friends, with your significant other.  There is nothing like it.  Nothing.

Listen to this:
Believer - Imagine Dragons

Thursday, June 7, 2018

RACE REVIEW:TOWN DAY 5 MILER


Last Saturday I made a game day decision to run the Winchester Town Day Road Race.  According to my training plan I needed to get 8 miles in anyway, so I figured it would be good for me to mix it up and throw some faster miles in, you know, for fun and all.  The really nice thing about this event is that the start is down at our middle school track which is just a mile from my house and thus no planes, trains or automobiles involved.  I so rarely get to race close to home and feel like it's good to take advantage of the opportunity when it arises.  But, that said, we had a lot going on in our household Saturday morning, so as of Friday night I still wasn't sure I could get all my ducks in a row and get the race in, too.

COFFEE w/ CLOVER

Fortunately, the race didn't start until 8:30 so I was able to just roll out of bed at my usual time, walk the dog and enjoy my coffee at a leisurely pace when we got back.  At around 7:30, after crossing some t's and dotting some i's and checking in with my husband I decided I could probably get the race in and get back in time to do everything else that needed to be done.  I ran down to the track carrying nothing but cash for my registration in my pocket and using that first mile as my warmup.  You can't get much easier than that.  I have a love/hate relationship with shorter races; short being anything under a half marathon.  I love them because they're over quickly.  I hate them because they are monumentally harder for me.  I do them because they are good for me; speed being something I am always working on.  I had checked in with my coach earlier in the week, letting him know the details and confirming that I wouldn't worry about pace or time given that I've been a little rusty and beat down lately.  There were two options for the runners; either 2.5 miles or 5.  I opted for the 5 mile loop since I needed to run 8 total for the day and I wanted to just get it done in one fell swoop.

COURSE PROFILE

The five mile course was two 2.5 mile laps, and the first 1.5 miles were on a steady incline.  Super fun.  For obvious reasons, I wasn't thrilled about the route but my coach thought it was actually a good thing because it would ensure that I truly let go of any time goal and just put in a solid effort, something I rarely do.  By the time I headed over to the track it was already in the 70s and the humidity was rising steadily, which I knew was going to make things even more awesome.  I found the sign up table and filled out my form as sweat rapidly dripped down my face on account of my run down.  That was a little awkward for both me and the volunteer helping me as I was having trouble both holding the pen and avoiding getting the page wet.  Another benefit of the local race is not having to arrive hours before the race start.  Once I'd gotten my number, I putzed around a little more, chatted with friends, did a few strides and then it was go-time.  Or not.  Actually, the woman in charge began the announcements right at 8:30 when the race was set to begin.  So, yeah, the downfall of the smaller race being that things don't really have to start right on time.  At 8:35 were were still in the middle of the national anthem and I started to get a little fidgety.  I needed to be home by 9:30 in order to get my older daughter to a bat mitzvah and my younger daughter to a soccer game so my window of opportunity to race and then be back in time to deal was rapidly closing.  I considered bailing all together but I was already there and at that point really itching to go.  Plus, I was still going to have to bust a move and get the run in, race or no race so I just sat tight.  Finally, we all made our way onto the track and then at 8:40 they sent us on our way.  Between the heat and the hill that I was about to climb I knew to take it easy and just cruise.  So, up I rolled to the first water station which happened to be in my neighborhood.  Naturally, I high-fived all my neighbors who were standing outside watching.  That was fun.  Then up I climbed again to the second, much smaller but steeper hill.  And that was all in the first mile.  Which is right about when I realized that this 5 miler might feel a bit longer than I had originally planned given the circumstances.  We finally got some downhill as we closed out the first lap.  Those who were running the 2.5 mile race turned to finish on the track.  I won't lie and tell you I didn't consider turning myself and just cutting it short.  I know several others likely did, in fact, do this as the volunteers had told us we could decide on the spot and it was clearly the smarter option at that moment.  I was now completely overheated and insanely uncomfortable.  But, at the same time, I had already committed so on I went, with the 12 other people who had decided to run the full 5 miles.  Just kidding.  It was more than 12.  But not many.  Around the corner and up I went again for my second lap.  Now I was fully on the pain train.  I was not looking at my watch.  There was no point.  I was excited to see my neighbors again, though this time I was not quite as chipper as I'd been the first time I'd passed them.  But it did give me a nice little boost of energy to hear them cheering.  I knew that once I got to mile 3 I was pretty much done with hills and could coast to the finish so I climbed on.  As I came down toward the final mile someone took a photo which I later entitled 'Tomato Face' for obvious reasons.


I cruised though the final mile and then turned to finish on the track which now felt like a giant frying pan.  I rolled across the line and then immediately grabbed two waters, pouring one on my head and chugging the second while gasping for air.  Not pretty.  But the work was done and I was pleased that I'd powered through.  I had no idea what my time was and I didn't make an effort to find out.  For once, it totally didn't matter.  All that mattered was that I'd pushed hard, had fun (kind of), spent some time in my own community for a change and made the whole thing work with my family's schedule.  BOOM.  My friend Sara, who is also my neighbor, met up with me post-race and joined me for an easy cool down back to our hood.  Fortunately I'd finished with enough of a buffer to make it back and get my girls to their activities with a little extra time to spare.  Which I used to get iced coffee before Grace's game.  Obviously.  

SOCCER SIDELINE

I later found out that I'd run a 33:11 which is a decent time for me all things considered.  I also was able to get my split at the 2.5 mile mark and learned that I'd run the second half faster than the first which I was psyched about as going out too fast is a common blunder for me.  In the end, it's not the most exciting race report.  They can't all be showstoppers but they all have their takeaways.  In this case, run local, ignore the watch, embrace the ugly and enjoy the rest of your day.  

Listen to this:
Catch the Movement - The Little Ones

Friday, June 1, 2018

RWR:MEET DEENA KASTOR, OLYMPIAN, WRITER, LEGEND

“As an athlete I’ve found aside from hard work, the greatest tools for success are optimism and gratitude."
~ Deena Kastor

She's an Olympian.  She's an American record holder in multiple distances.  She's a coach.  She's an author.  She's a wife.  She's a mom.  There is really not much this woman can't or doesn't do.  Particularly when she puts her mind to it; a skill that she has seemed to master over the years.  Today I am thrilled to introduce you to the amazing Deena Kastor.  In 2004, Deena won an Olympic Bronze Medal in the marathon in Athens, Greece, a feat that no American woman had been able to accomplish in this event for 20 years before her.  I happened to be 29 at the time and just starting to think about getting into marathoning.  So this little bit of running news completely blew my mind.  I have followed her closely since then as she has continued to win races and shatter records along the way.  Her accomplishments put her in a category of her own but she has worked insanely hard to become an athlete at this level, both mentally and physically and her story is what makes her so inspiring and, believe it or not, relatable.  


Personal Bests
3000 m: 8:42.59
5000 m: 14:51.62
10000 m: 30:50.32
Half Marathon: 1:07:34 National Record
Marathon: 2:19:36 National Record
Half Marathon:1:09.39 Masters World Record
Marathon: 2:27.47 US Women's Masters marathon record

Back in February, I was out in Seattle and a friend mentioned that Deena had just written a memoir, Let Your Mind Run, which not only told her story but that really focused in on the mental element of training and racing.  She happened to have a copy which I flipped through (borderline devoured) after which I excitedly pre-ordered my own copy as the book would not be coming out for the rest of us until April.  When it finally arrived, I finished it in two days.  For me as a runner, coach, even as a Mom, it is a total game changer.  When she was just getting started as a pro, her coach focused on keeping things positive, always staying optimistic and most importantly being grateful for all the she had and all that she could do.  She has carried this mindset with her for her entire life and continues to do so today.  In my humble opinion, everyone should read this book.  It applies to all of us in how we approach what we do, regardless of what 'that' is.  Immediately after I finished the book, I reached out to Deena directly, first to thank her for the positive impact her story has made on my life and then, knowing she was passionate about both running and music, to see if she'd let me profile here in the RWR series, which she graciously agreed to.  So, here she is folks.  Meet Deena Kastor, a runner who rocks.

RWR: MEET DEENA

Name: Deena Kastor
Where you're from: Agoura Hills, California
Where you reside now: Mammoth Lakes, California
Age: 45
Occupation: Athlete—Olympic medalist and American record holder in the Marathon
Blog/website: www.deenakastor.com


ON RUNNING & MUSIC:
What do you love most about running? 
I love running for the freedom of exploration, the sense of community and the thrill of challenging my limits. My favorite trail is the one I haven’t explored yet.
What do you love most about music?
I love music for how it can both connect us to an emotion or task, but that it also has the ability to distract or transcend us.


Deena & her crew
*Photo credit:ASICS

DEENA'S FAVORITES:
Band (current, all time or both): U2. I love how they have recreated themselves over the years and that they connect to political movements of the time they are performing. I have listened to them in High School and then twenty years later saw them in concert and still resonated with the old music as well as the new.
Album (current, all time or both): Madonna's Ray of Light. Every song in this album moves me greatly. From spiritual songs to house music, its all here on one album.
Race venue: Stockholm Stadium, for its history and good vibes—oh yeah, and that all my personal bests have happened there each summer.
Music venue: Aloha Stadium or my living room. I saw the final performance of the U2 world tour here. In that night, Bono invited fans on stage which gave it such an intimate feel. We were treated to performances by Pearl Jam and Billie Joe of Green Day. When we were walking back to our hotel at 3am, runners of the Honolulu marathon were up having breakfast and making their way to the start line. It was the meeting of my two passions—music and running.
Race distance: Half Marathon - its half the marathon distance, all the fun, and none of the soreness.
Show you've seen live: Madonna at the Staples Center in LA in 2001.
Ice cream flavor: I’m a new fan of Talenti Coconut Almond Chocolate, but have been a decade’s long fan of Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz.


THIS OR THAT?
Sweet or salty? Salty. It replaces the minerals in all the sweat I’ve lost while working out. I‘d rather have an extra slice of pizza than dessert...but I’ll hear the dessert menu first!
Live or recorded? Live, hands down! Recorded music is convenient, but live is an intimate experience.
Coffee or tea? Coffee—black and chewable, preferably a French Press as opposed to the trendy pour over.
Summer or winter? Rain, snow or shine, I can still do all the things I love!


MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? U2 or Bjork
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Ella Fitzgerald
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Madonna. And I’d like to play alongside her on stage!


Madonna, Ray of Light

LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like….(fill in the blank):
The entire universe is in a conspiracy to see me happy!


Photo credit: Andrew Kastor


Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both: 
The Night Out by Martin Solveig 
Something New by Robin Shultz 
Light it Up by Major Laser
Cheerleader by OMI
One Kiss by Calvin Harris

Last 5 Songs you listened to today:
Nevermind by Dennis Lloyd 
Love Lies by Khalid 
Spotlight by Deflo 
Looking Too Closely by Fink 
Stolen Dance by Milky Chance





Listen to this:
The Night Out - Martin Solveig

Friday, May 25, 2018

MEH

"I'm lost again
but this time I'm fine with where I am"
~ Mating Ritual, 'I'm Just Alright'


I'm kind of "meh" on running right now.  I'm not complaining about it or feeling sorry for myself.  I've just lost my groove a little bit.  Maybe it's because I just ran five big races in a span of two months and I'm fried.  Maybe it's because I'm running to run right now with no specific agenda and nothing big on the horizon; my next marathon not being until October.  Maybe it's because the next few weeks of our high school spring track season, while intense and exciting, will also be our last which is so bittersweet.  Maybe it's because it's hot out.  Maybe it's because I haven't discovered any fresh running music in a while.  Maybe it's nothing.  Maybe, despite much thought, I won't be able to put a finger on it.  And maybe that's okay.  If I've learned anything over the past forty three years it's that mental cycle of running, much like life itself, consistently ebbs and flows.  That the emotional and physical impacts are often unpredictable.  The highs are high.  The lows can be really low.  And the in betweens are just that.  Time and space to stop, reflect, let go and, dare I say it, even lose the drive and desire for a while?  Being an admittedly driven individual, just thinking it feels wrong.  Like I'm cheating on a test and someone might catch me.  But as I write it, I realize it's probably a good thing. Or, if not good, perhaps necessary.  Part of the process, if you will.  Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll lace up, get out on the road and feel like a million bucks, ready to fly.  Not likely.  But maybe.  And if not, I'll get the run in and then focus on the next day.  Bottom line?  I'm not going to stop running.  And I know this will change.  I don't know when.  But when it starts to shift, I'll feel it.  And, having gone through this before, I know that feeling, that shift, will get me excited about running again.  And the weather, the music, the workout; none of it will matter.  I'll just be ready to get after it again.  But until then, I'll accept it for what it is.  A moment, a phase, an unsolvable bleep on the radar.  Just...meh.

Listen to this:
I'm Just Alright - Mating Ritual