Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: November 2011


I actually got my playlist together very early this month, yet I dawdled in posting it. It's a great playlist, if I say so myself. It opens with the latest rousing song from Florence and the Machine. Florence is proof that it isn't what you say that matters but how you say it. The lyrics in "Shake It Out" are a bit clunky but Florence's full-throated singing glosses that over and delivers the inspiration.

The next two songs are a look at being young. The first, "We Are Young" by Fun. featuring Janelle Monae, is in the present tense, while "When I Was Young" by Nada Surf is in the past. I like the contrast between the two. One is exuberant while the other is bittersweet.

Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark, Jr., and the Black Keys deliver the bluesy heart of this playlist. I love these three songs and they are the ones that make me daydream that I'm a blues singer playing these mean guitar riffs.

Lana Del Rey is freaky to look at. Her lips must have their own zip code. Then there is the question of whether she's a manufactured indie act, but that really doesn't matter so much to me. A song like "Video Games" is immediately alluring, and I liked the song upon hearing without realizing that it was the Lana Del Rey I had read so much about. So, yeah, I impartially fell in love with the song.

Real Estate and Phantogram are probably going to get bigger in the next year. "Green Aisles" is my favorite song from Real Estate's album, "Days." Their sound is chill and relaxed but it's never boring. "Green Aisles" is simple but it's loaded with longing and wistfulness. It's gorgeous. Phantogram's "Don't Move" is just fun. I dare you to not move along with it.

Mayer Hawthorne is a purveyor of white soul, and the first time I heard "The Walk" I thought it was an old classic soul tune I had heard before. It's a great kiss-off song. Funny, fun, and feisty. I decided to follow up "The Walk" with a soul cult classic, Darondo's "Didn't I."

To close out the list, I threw in the FIeld's hypnotic "Then It's White." It may sound like a dull, repetitive song but there is a progression in it that makes it a mesmerizing listen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Incase Update

The ordeal is over! I received a new case yesterday and there's nothing wrong with it. It's new, it has all the requisite parts. I think what they sent me before was a used/returned item. It had a lot of scratches as if it was dropped, probably causing the bottom part to break off. I imagine that someone decided to take advantage of the system. Their case broke, they bought a new one, took the new one, and then returned their purchase except they placed their old, broken one in the box. At the warehouse they picked up this returned one and sent it to me. I'm probably not too far off on my story.

The upside of this whole thing is that each time they sent me a shipment, they also shipped a package of screen protectors. I bought one originally because it was only $10 when it's normally $20. Well, they wound up sending me three packets. Maybe I should sell one online and keep one as backup.

In any event, my iPhone is now encased, or is that Incased?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grrrr...But Not Really

I bought my iPhone 4S the day it came out, so I've had it for a month. I'm fairly happy with it and it has come in handy. I haven't downloaded Angry Birds yet, which makes me think I'm not using it to its full capability.

This post, though, isn't about the iPhone. It's about the case I ordered for it the same night I bought it. In short, the phone still does not have a case.

Let's go back. I paid $20 for a $40 coupon from Groupon or Living Social, I forget, towards an Incase product in anticipation of the iPhone I knew I would get. I like their design and wanted the best for my very expensive phone. As I mentioned, I ordered it the same night I got my phone. I expected it to arrive within a week.

A week later, a package arrived, it weighed practically nothing. I opened it expecting to find my case and the screen protector, but alas, it was only the screen protector and some crumpled up paper. But I'm a patient man, so I figured it would arrive soon.

The week ended and no package. I wait a couple more days the following week and still no case. I finally call Incase and spoke to a representative who was very nice. He couldn't really tell me with certainty that the case was even shipped but he told me he would ship one out again immediately. If the first one that may or may not have been sent comes to me, he said I could keep that too. Great, I thought. Two cases for practically nothing.

I wait another week. No case. I call again and speak to the same guy, Frank. Again he was nice, if a little evasive about whether he shipped the promised case or not. I asked him if he had a tracking number so I can see where it is in UPS's system but he couldn't give me one, which makes me think that he didn't. I really should have been madder, but I'm not a very angry person and Frank was very nice and apologetic so I just couldn't find it in me to be angry.

So I wait again. Sure enough a package arrived on Tuesday. Hooray! I open it and let out a laugh. Inside was another screen protector. No case. How could they mess this up again? As it turned out they didn't. I get an e-mail from UPS indicating that another package was arriving the next day.

I get home yesterday and find the package at my doorstep. This long ordeal was finally coming to an end! I open the package and find the promised case. As I'm opening it I debated whether I should call Frank again the next day and tell him that I finally got my case. We would laugh and all would be good.

That was when I noticed something was wrong. The case was supposed to come with a stand so you can sit the iPhone sideways and watch whatever video you want to watch. Should I complain about that? It's unlikely I would use that stand anyway. I was leaning towards letting it go, but then I noticed a bigger problem. The case was broken. Half of the front bottom portion was missing. I slumped in my chair and laughed again. It's comical how much trouble I had to go through just to get this case.

Well, I called Incase today hoping to speak to Frank so I can give him a piece of my mind. He must have sensed I would call because he didn't pick up. Instead it was a lady named Linda. I explained to her what happened and she couldn't have been nicer about it. She said she would ship another one right away, so hopefully everything will be fine with this one.

I still wondered whether I should have expressed greater anger at the situation. A month I've waited and I'm still caseless. Maybe if it goes into a second month I would definitely be more upset. Or will I?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Race Report: 10.30.2011 Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Chip Time: 1:50:12
Pace: 8:25/mile

The Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half Marathon didn't turn out as badly as I was worried it would. It's far from my fastest marathon at 1:50:12. I should have pushed a little harder to get in under 1:50. Last year's time was five minutes faster at 1:45:23 but that was a different course. The lack of training really did me in, and it didn't help that I had gotten sick a week before. I had a couple of coughing fits during the race, but really the biggest issue was not getting the mileage before the race that I should have. By the 10K point my legs were feeling fatigued. I thought I might have gone out too fast, but considering I maintained the pace throughout probably means that it was just right. SInce I was in corral 2 I didn't have too many issues with having to swerve around people and I managed to run the first mile in 8:30 flat. In fact, I was consistently at 8:30 or under during the race. My slowest mile was mile 7 at an 8:36 pace. I can't remember anything unusual about that portion, but the reason for that being the slowest mile was probably due to a brief water/walk break. I thought the slowest one would have been mile 9 and its uphill climb up 6th Street bridge, but it doesn't appear that the bridge slowed me down too much. Mile 9 was accomplished in 8:19 and mile 10 was 8:32.

The race was mostly uneventful. The weather was fine until the end when it quickly warmed up. Thankfully the high rises of downtown provided much shade and the heat didn't trouble me. In the portion through Little Tokyo and towards Boyle Heights, though, there wasn't shade to be had, so the heat was a little more troublesome there. All in all it was a decent race. I didn't hurt too badly and I was able to finish. I doubt I'll run this race again next year, though. I don't like the new course. It's boring and not as fun as the old one that ran through Griffith Park, Silver Lake, Echo Park until finishing in downtown. Besides, it's been there, done that. Hopefully when I run the Pasadena Rock N Roll Half Marathon in February I will have trained better and be able to challenge my PR of 1:41 from four years ago.

As for the rest of the month, October was a slacker month for running. Including the half marathon, I only managed 84.1 miles for the month. Not good. The longest distance was the half marathon. I'm becoming a broken record, but I need to train more!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: October 2011

LINK: Raul's Finite Playlist - October 2011

Two of the best movies I'll probably see this year are "Weekend" and "Drive," and both have excellent, evocative soundtracks, songs from which appear on this month's playlist. John Grant's "Marz" runs over the end credits of "Weekend," punctuating a heartbreaking romance with its melancholy piano melody. Similarly, "A Real Hero" by College featuring Electric Youth caps off the moody, stylish, and surprisingly tender action of "Drive." Its chorus pretty much sums up the development of the film's lead, the unnamed Driver, played brilliantlyl by Ryan Gosling, as he finds himself to be "a real human being and a real hero." I'm hoping "A Real Hero" is eligible for Oscar consideration because it deserves to win.

The rest of the October list leans towards the moody. Maybe I was just in that sort of mood this month. I decided to open the list with two of the more upbeat tracks, Mates of State's "Palomino" and Fool's Gold's "Wild Window." Mates of State are back with a strong album and "Palomino" is a slight departure from their sound. It sounds a little more ragged than we expect to hear from the Mates but it is still catchy, proving once again my theory that any song with a "woohoo" chorus can't go wrong. "Wild Windows" is also a burst of cheerful pop from a band I've just started listening to. Their album, "Leave No Trace," sounds a bit to me like a west coast version of Vampire Weekend, with hints of world music but less cheeky.

Speaking of Vampire Weekend, Rostam Batmanglij, the gay, Persian member of the group, has several side projects. As ROSTAM, he has unfurled a languourous, beguiling song called "Wood," which features Eastern musical influences. It's quite a soothing song, perfect for relaxing in the grass.

Soothing can also be used to describe Feist's music. Her new album just came out and it is excellent. It's more of the same from her, but it doesn't get old. I think the fact that she remains true to her aesthetic is admirable. There is no song as delightful as "1234" on "Metals" but each song is as lovely as anything Feist has done. I really had a hard time singling out a song to pick from the album, but I eventually settled on "Graveyard" if only for the chorus of kids (another you-can't-go-wrong-with pop trick).

I've been listening to a lot of "Morning Becomes Eclectic" ever since I started this new job, so it's no surprise that it has had quite an influence on my musical tastes as of late. Blind Pilot, Jessica Lea Mayfield, James Vincent McMorrow, and Grouplove are all heard frequently on the show. Blind Pilot has a sound that at first seems indistinguishable from other indie pop acts, but songs like "We are the Tide" have an understated charm that makes them stick. Jessica Lea Mayfield, too, fits an MBE mold, quirky, pretty vocals, carried throughout pretty songs. "Blue Skies Again" is a highlight from her album. Grouplove is a local band and as their name suggests there is a free love vibe to them. They are apparently a good live band and their debut album is quite good. I eventually settled on "Tongue-Tied" to include in the list, but for a while I was going to go with "Naked Kids," but then even after that I thought of changing it to "Colours." In other words, they have a solid collection of songs. I've only heard "If I Had a Boat" from James Vincent McMorrow, so I can't comment on his full album, but I like this song. He's a soulful, singer-songwriter.

Fiona Apple hasn't really been heard from in a while, but I just got a Buddy Holly tribute album that features Fiona Apple's simple but perfect cover of Holly's "Everyday." I wonder if she's got anything new being cooked up?

To close out the list, I included two instrumental tracks from Andrew Bird from his score to the film "Norman." I haven't seen the film, but the soundtrack gets my thumbs up. Not only does it have Andrew Bird's music but it also has tracks from Chad VanGaalen and Wolf Parade. Bird is an excellent composer and I think he would do well scoring more films. His music, even without vocals, have tremendous emotionality that isn't that easy to pull off. The tracks I chose from the soundtrack are "The Bridge" and "Hospital."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Month in Running

I mentioned in my last "The Month in Running" post that September was off to a bad start. As it turned out, it was a good running month. Fueled by Ragnar, I wound up running 103 miles. If it were not for the running gods conspiring against me in the last week, September would have even surpassed March in total miles ran.

My longest run was an 11.11 mile run appropriately enough on 9/11. I also had a 10 miler last week. But if you count my Ragnar runs as one, that would have been 20+ miles over the course of a day. My shortest run was 3.86 in Ktown. I ran from home up to Rossmore and back. All together, I ran 16 times in September.

September also marked the beginning of the Garmin era as my new watch arrived. I was motivated to run in order to use the watch, which in turn motivates me to run faster. It's a neat piece of equipment, and I'm enjoying seeing the details of my run--my pace, where I slowed down, where I was fast, elevation change, We'll see how long the novelty lasts. I'll play around some more with the Garmin and see about putting the charts on the blog.

Overall, I felt good progress in my runs during the September. I think I may have even lost a couple of pounds. I hope to carry it through October, which is off to a good start so far as I have run on its first two days. Hopefully I'm not jinxing it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: September 2011

LINK: Raul's Finite Playlist: September 2011

September has sure flown. I feel like I say that every month, but it's true. Time flies!

For this month's playlist, I seem to have resorted to old favorites. The Antlers, Magnetic Fields, Active Child, and Sufjan Stevens are making return appearances on the playlist. If not for a little self-restraint a couple of these artists would be on the list every month. The Antlers show up again with "I Don't Want Love," another gorgeous track from their newest album, Burst Apart. The Magnetic Fields return with "Grand Canyon" from 69 Love Songs. It's one of several songs from that collection that just makes me sigh with its powerful simplicity as they convey the unbridgeable chasm that develops when love goes away. "But I'm just me, I'm only me," Stephin Merritt begs to heartbreaking effect.

Gorgeous in a different way, Active Child appears again on the list with "Hanging On," one of the highlights from You Are All I See. To top it off, I threw in an intimate epic from Sufjan Stevens, "All Delighted People" from the EP of the same name.

Now on to the virgins! Anna Calvi has a full-throated voice and "Desire" reminds me a little of Kate Bush, but that's true of other female artists of late. Influences are influences and musicians are full of them. Royal Bangs, for example, sound a little like Wolf Parade in "Dim Chamber," but I love Wolf Parade so I'm a happy camper.

Another new band is Motopony with their brief, jazzy "King of Diamonds." Wilco is back in fine form with The Whole Love and "Dawned on Me" is one of the standout tracks. Its gently cascading chorus is quite appealing. Also coming back strong is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The one-time band-of-the-moment has receded to a lower profile, but it's good to hear them still making terrific songs like "Same Mistake. The Drums also show up on the list with their latest catchy song, the cheery "Book of Revelation," which isn't all that cheery of a topic.

To top it all off, I threw in a couple of cover tunes. I love covers. It's hard to believe that prior to this month I had not included a Bon Iver song, but now they show up with a pretty version of Peter Gabriel's "Come Talk to Me." The Shins contribute a peppy version of Squeeze's "Goodbye Girl."

Overall this month's list leans towards the melancholy. None of the songs are what I would consider depressing, but then again my scale is a little off. I'd say this month's list favors a wistful beauty rather than party anthems. Frankly, I'd rather be at a party playing Sufjan instead of one blasting out hip hop.

Until October… oh, crap, that's in a couple of days!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ragnar Napa Valley: In Vino Very Fast


Another year, another Ragnar relay. This time we ran amidst the lovely surroundings of Northern California, working our way from San Francisco to Calistoga. One would think that doing this three years in a row would be enough, but I'm eagerly looking forward to running another relay. It's an absolutely fun, miserable adventure that you have to experience firsthand to really appreciate. On the way back from Napa there was discussion in our van about maybe doing an out-of-state race. We'll try for Hood to Coast, but there was also talk about something in the Northwest or even New England. We'll see what happens.


As for the race itself, I wound up taking one of the 20 mile leg(s) for no other reason than the fact that I've been running fairly consistently and had no injury. Any other time that wouldn't be a qualification, but it was enough. I acquitted myself well. My first leg was my longest at 7.8 miles and made tough by a big hill halfway through. It was scenic, though. It started in what was possibly the mosty idllyic-looking location, complete with a white church and a gorgeous background of brown hills and oak trees. Davey told me the other night that Skywalker Ranch was only a few miles away. The first half included a scenic view of a reservoir. I also encountered three deer bounding across the road. I didn't ask them why they crossed. I started off well but immediately got passed by a very fast runner. That always sucks. Then another runner, faster than the first, zoomed by me. Damn you! I maintained a strong 8 minute pace up until the hill. I slowed down a bit as I made the ascent. I could hear footsteps behind me but the runner didn't seem ready to pass me. I kept thinking to myself that he should just pass me and get it over with. Finally he did when my cummerbund fell off.

Oh, I forgot to mention that our teamn name, My Big Fat Ragnar Wedding, a remnant of a plan by Scotty, who organized the last two Ragnars, to run as three teams under a wedding theme. Scotty had to drop out and the other two teams never materialized, but our team held strong, left with a team name we weren't too enthusiastic about. We made the best of it, though, propelled by a couple of energetic teammates who gathered together costumes for the runners complete with veils, bow ties, garters, and the aforementioned cummerbund. We even decorated our van for the first time! My concern with the name was that people were going to ask us who was getting married, but the questions never materialized. People just seemed to buy the fact that we're a wedding-themed team. Next time, though, we're going with a better name.


Back to my first leg, as soon as I got over the hill I fell back to a good pace. I kept my eye on the faster runners that had just passed me and made a plan to not let them get too far ahead. Thanks to a slight downhill finish, I averaged about an 8:15 pace for the 7.8 miles.

My second leg took place in the dead of night. I think I started it at 2am on a dark country road. The leg was 6.2 miles and probably my easiest thanks to a flat route and nice cool temperatures. Even though I started in what felt like a dark, country road, I was soon in the middle of suburbia. The rest of the run was along a commercial thoroughfare and through some residential streets. Since it was dark anyway I didn't care that it wasn't scenic. The leg was mostly uneventful. The same fast runner who had passed me in the previous leg passed me again. Drats! However, I did pass a total of six runners but only got passed by that fast runner and another runner later on. My pace was a bit over 8 minutes per mile, which worried me that I was exhausting myself with one more long leg the next day to go.

While I wasn't completely out of gas, my third leg was definitely a slog. It was 6.8 miles straight down Silverado Trail. Within a mile a side stitch developed and bugged me the rest of the way. It didn't help that it had warmed up and had to deal with rolling hills. I held on as best I can but it felt like I was just walking. Early on two runners running side by side passed me. A short while later a zooming guy draped in what looked like the Brazilian flag flew by me. I kept seeing runners in front of me who looked slow enough to catch, so I focused on them. I passed one, then another, but then got passed by someone else. By the end of the leg I had an eventful run where I passed five runners but got passed by six. This was a tough run where I just had to suck it up and keep moving. I kept checking my newly acquired Garmin to see how far I had gone--4 miles left! 3.5 miles! 2 miles! Surprisingly, even though I felt like I was barely moving, I was actually keeping up a good pace. Granted it was all over the map. At some points I was at 8:00/mile then I'm up to 9:15/mile. I did take two walk breaks, but I think at the finish my average pace was around 8:30/mile. It definitely didn't feel like I was running at times. I caught a second wind near the end when I realilzed that my agony would soon be over. I should probably also credit the two giant apple fritters Donna bought me as a birthday present. I would nosh on a big chunk throughout the day, especially before my legs. I'm sure the sugar rush powered me through some difficult moments.


As a team we finished the 186 miles in just over 27 hours. Official results aren't up yet, so we'll see, but I don't think this garnered us any special awards. We ran last year's course in about the same time and that one was over 200 miles.

Surprisingly I wasn't too sore from the experience. I was tired and smelly and probably couldn't run another leg if my life depended on it. When we got to our hotel in Santa Rosa I showered and promptly took a nap. I really couldn't string together a meaningful amount of sleep in a cramped van. The nap helped and the team celebrated with beer and greasy food at Third Street Aleworks. We were hoping for Russian River Brewery but there was no way we could fit in there.

Ragnar is really an event I should dislike for reasons other than the actual event of running a long distance relay. It's a very corporate event, lots of promotional items, and many of the participants I would probably find obnoxious in the normal course of life for being douchey and frat boyish (albeit frat boys with incredibly nice physiques). Yet I always have a good time. The participants are generally friendly and easy-going and friendly rivalries develop. It's a big event, but at its core is the team of running friends you have chosen to spend over a day riding in an increasingly malodorous van. You laugh, you goof around, you cheer each other on, and you eat, eat, eat. By relay's end you don't want to leave the van and you're filled with such positive vibes that it's a shock to have to return to your normal life. I'm sure there's a life lesson in there somewhere, but even if there isn't, Ragnar--or any other relay--is at the very least a fun, silly adventure. Fun is something we could use more of in life.

More pictures on my Flickr page.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Month in Running

August turned out to be a not-so-bad running month. I didn't hit the targeted 100 miles for the month (87 miles), but it was still more than I thought I would run. My longest run of the month was only 10 miles. Work and health issues kept me sidelined more than I would like, but I also felt that this month found me finding a good balance between time and running. Towards the end of the month my runs have been better, so I'm hoping that means I'm making progress. I need to start doing longer miles too, especially with the half marathon coming up next month and a long 9 mile leg at Ragnar. Yikes, Ragnar is in two weeks!

Unfortunately, September isn't off to a good start. I intended to run today but got home too late and felt too hungry to run. I'll try to make up for it this weekend.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: August 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: August 2011

There isn't an all-encompassing theme to my playlists apart from the fact that these are all songs I like and find myself listening to a lot during the month. Most of the songs are new releases or new finds, but there are also old favorites. This month a few of the songs are from acts I saw live. It was a rare month where I saw not one, not two, but three concerts--all within a week! I'm still recovering. Old 97's and Josh Ritter are longtime favorites of mine and they played a show at the Wiltern. "Nineteen" was the first song I recall hearing from Old 97's way back in the late 90's. That's actually a late intro to the band as they had released three albums prior to "Fight Songs," which were arguably their best work.

I first heard Josh Ritter performing a live set on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" in 2003. I fell in love with his poetic bent and rushed out to buy "Hello Starling." He has since released three consistently brilliant albums. That he hasn't broken through big time is a shame. He's an infectious performer. FJ noted at the Wiltern show that he exudes pure joy while performing, something that is strangely absent in a lot of bands/artists. "Change of Time" is from his most recent album, "So Runs the World Away," and can also be heard on an NFL Network commercial that has been airing recently.

I also won tickets to Death Cab for Cutie and Frightened Rabbits this month. I'm lucky, I guess. Both bands are--to describe them in one word--sincere, but not in the off-putting way. Both are too melodic and too talented to be denigrated for being sincere. They wear their hearts on their sleeves but also make beautiful, catchy music. "The Sound of Settling" is from "Transatlanticism," Death Cab's 2003 album, which they used to close out their set. Frightened Rabbits played an impressive opening set. Their songs all tend to soar, which makes for an uplifting and inspiring experience. They didn't perform "The Twist," but here it is anyway.

For new favorites, the list is led by the Belle Brigade's "Losers." The Belle Brigade is an extremely appealing brother-sister duo. Their free show at Pasadena's Levitt Pavilion was a delight in spite of the stomach virus Barbara Gruska was dealing with. Gardens & Villa opened for Generationals in July and impressed me with their sound. The flute figures prominently in their music but that's no mere gimmick. There's a free love vibe to their sound and in "Orange Blossom" it presents itself with a sexy-time groove and vaguely sexual and ridiculous sounding come-ons as "Think of me as a swarm of bees/Buzzing around your leaves/To pollenate means ecstasy." You get the idea?

Dirty Gold's "California Sunrise" is perfect California summertime listening. I don't know much about the band, but I'm definitely curious to hear more. Same goes for Ben Howard's "Old Pine," which seems to be about the joys of summertime camping with good friends.

The morning benders' terrific cover of the Strokes' "Last Night" is their contribution to the song-by-song tribute by Stereogum of the Strokes' seminal debut, "Is This It?". Owen Pallett contributes to the album titled "STROKED: A Tribute to 'Is This It'" along with other bands. It's a free download, so check it out on the Stereogum website.

I've had Seapony's album for a while now but haven't had the time to fuly listen to it, but then "What You See" came on while my iPod was on shuffle and I fell in love with it.

The playlist is rounded off by two old favorites, the Rapture and My Morning Jacket, who both have new albums. "How Deep Is Your Love" isn't vintage the Rapture but it is still undeniably catchy and "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" is a beautful song about mortality as only My Morning Jacket can do.

Enjoy the playlist!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: May 2011

01 "You Are A Tourist - Death Cab for Cutie

02 "The Wilhelm Scream" - James Blake
03 "Changing" - The Airborne Toxic Event

04 "Goin' Home" - Dan Auerbach
05 "Hockey Teeth" - Bahamas

06 "Powa" - Tune-Yards
07 "No Names" - Mutual Benefit
08 "Movin' Away" - My Morning Jacket
09 "Steal Your Heart" - Augustana

10 "Just a Growin'" - Young Man
11 "Putting the Dog to Sleep" - The Antlers
12 "Peace on the Rise" - Chad VanGaalen

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: April 2011

01 "Good Day" - Tally Hall

02 "Sydney (I'll Come Running)" - Brett Dennen

03 "Down in the Valley" - The Head and the Heart

04 "Helplessness Blues" - Fleet Foxes

05 "Rewrite" - Paul Simon

06 "Everything, All at Once" - Correatown

07 "Home" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

08 "ƜBerlin" - R.E.M.

09 "Tiny Man" - The Dears

10 "Civilian" - Wye Oak

11 "She's So High" - Tal Bachman

12 "Legend of a Cowgirl" - Imani Coppola

Monday, April 04, 2011

The More the Merrier

I can definitely vouch for this article's argument in favor of exercising socially. I probably would not have run all these marathons had I not trained with a group. They keep me honest and knowing that my friends are out there waiting for me gives me a sense of obligation.

Friday, April 01, 2011

My Sandwich Lady Misses Me

Egg Salad Sandwich, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

I love J&J Sandwich in downtown. I think they make a terrific egg salad sandwich. I try not to order it too often, so it has been a while since I've gotten lunch there. Today, though, I craved an egg salad sandwich. When I got there the nice Korean lady who owns the shop smiled at me and said, "Long time no see." She missed me! Of course the cynical side of me thought that she probably says that to everyone and is trying to guilt me into ordering more often. Still, it made my day.

There's something about the sandwich shops I visit here in downtown. The owner of the appropriately named Sandwich Shop knows my name even though I only order once in a blue moon. There is really something nice about going where the proprietor knows your name.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: March 2011

01 "Rolling in the Deep (Adele Cover)" - John Legend

02 "You Are A Runner and I Am My Father's Son" - Wolf Parade

03 "The Cave" - Mumford & Sons

04 "Rum and Coca-Cola" - Wanda Jackson

05 "Get Some" - Lykke Li

06 "Dry the Rain" - The Beta Band

07 "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." - Noah and the Whale

08 "Open Arms" - Elbow

09 "Black Night" - The Dodos

10 "Singing in My Sleep" - Semisonic

11 "Right Hand Man" - Joan Osborne

12 "Someone Like You" - Adele

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Additional Notes from the 2011 LA Marathon

As a fan of trivia, I really dig how RunPix breaks down your race. Some of the details are a huge ego boost. My favorite notes:

-in the last 4.5 miles, I passed 395 people but was only passed by 27 runners. Yeah, take that!
-I was in the top 20% of all men and in my division. That could improve, but still good to know I was faster than 4 out of 5 guys.
-My average speed was 6.8 mph. I'll set a goal of doing 7.0 mph next time.
-I was still in West Hollywood when the winner crossed the finish line.

Also, here are some pics from the race. The rain really makes it look dramatic. The raincoat I'm wearing is part of my fall collection inspired by bags of dead leaves I saw on someone's front lawn. Isn't it slimming?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Race Report: 03.20.2011 Los Angeles Marathon

Time: 3:52:37
Average Pace: 8:52/mile

Marathon #12 is done! Still no new PR, but this was my fastest Los Angeles Marathon yet, beating my previous time from 2007 by exactly two minutes. This was also my second fastest time ever. It's almost a minute faster than my Seattle time but still three minutes off my personal best in San Diego in 2007.

I guess the best word to desribe my running the last four years is consistent. My marathon finish times have been within ten minutes of each other, with San Francisco's 4:03 marking my low point since 2007. Not a bad thing. It totally reflects my training the last few years, which has consisted of "maintaining" my fitness. I basically get the miles in that I need to finish the race in four hours. I keep telling myself that I need to do more speed workouts, though. Do I do it? No. I do need to push myself a little more, but I just don't feel motivated. If only I can get faster without trying.

This year's race went as well as it could. The rain really didn't bother me too much. Once you're wet you learn not to dwell on it. I still would have preferred no rain, but what can you do? At least it didn't rain while we were waiting for the race to start.

Looking back on the race I probably should have pushed a little harder because I had juice left at the finish. Looking at my splits above, I was, well, consistent. They took down some of the mile markers due to the wind, so I missed the splits from miles 11-14. I maintained a consistent pace, not running too fast nor running too slow. Usually I slow down the last few miles, but I kept my pace all the way to the end, which again tells me that I could have gone harder earlier. Towards the end my breathing was fine even if my legs were tired. In fact, my fastest mile was the final 1.2 miles, which I ran in an 8:06 pace. Perhaps fittingly, my slowest mile was the first one. Not a bad way to go.

I probably played it too conservatively. I was worried that with the weather that I would cramp up early if I pushed the pace too early. I also took too many water breaks because I was worried about dehydrating. With the rain and the cold, it makes it tougher to figure out if you're becoming dehydrated, so I played it safe and made sure I had enough to drink. Those extra stops probably cost me a couple of minutes.

In the end, though, I can't really complain. I had a great race and felt good the entire time. I enjoyed running in the rain and it warmed my heart to see so many people cheering out in the rain. Running a marathon really does give you hope for your fellow human being. If only people can be as supportive and positive as they are during a race as they are in everyday life, the world would be a better place.

I'm going to end with a short note on this year's logistics. That half mile walk after the finish line to the festival was horrible. It's bad enough to walk that far, even though it probably helped prevent my legs from locking up, but with the weather the way it was, it really made it a miserable experience. Worse was the gear pick up. Last year this was a catastrophe. This year was no different. It looked like the organizers at least took pains to be more organized with the bags rather than just throwing them indiscriminately into a truck as they did last year. But it was obvious when I dropped off my bags in the morning that they needed more pods to house the bags. I'm guessing some volunteers didn't show up because of the weather. There was only one ever-patient volunteer at my pod for the pick-up. Luckily, I found my bag rather quickly. I heard others took much longer.

With that said, though, I want to note how amazing the volunteers were. It's tough enough to run in the rain and the cold, but I think it's much tougher to stand out there for hours. Kudos to the volunteers! And while the finish-line festival was a muddy mess too, the warming buses were an excellent call. Ultimately, the L.A. Marathon did more right than it did wrong. Maybe by next year everything will be perfect.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: February 2011

01 "Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster the People

02 "The Power and the Glory" - White Lies

03 "Ringing in My Ear" - Adem

04 "Ruin My Day" - Jon Brion

05 "Unhappy Anniversary" - Loudon Wainwright III

(That's not Loudon in the video, though)

06 "So Many Ways" - Mates of State

07 "16 Days" - Whiskeytown

08 "Looking for a Girl" - Teddy Thompson

09 "Cupid" - Sam Cooke

10 "Poison & Wine" - The Civil Wars

11 "God Only Knows" - The Beach Boys

12 "Walking Far From Home" - Iron and Wine

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Raul's Finite Playlist: January 2011

The theme of the month is "pretty."

01 "Lille" - Lisa Hannigan

02 "It's Been a Year" - Greg Laswell

03 "My Blue Tears" - Teddy Thompson

04 "Swim Until You Can't See Land" - Frightened Rabbit

05 "Made in the Dark" - Hot Chip

06 "Becoming a Jackal" - Villagers

07 "Piano Song" - Meiko

08 "Lay Your Head Down" - Keren Ann

09 "Stick With Me Baby" - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

10 "You and Me" - Penny and the Quarters

11 "The Trapeze Swinger" - Iron & Wine