Featured

About me

  1. I am a runner on the wrong side of 40.
  2. I skateboard – not as much as I would like to.
  3. I play bass guitar.
  4. I run regularly to listen to heavy metal, not to race.
  5. I try to set myself a solid running challenge each year.
  6. I have one dog called Polly, she is a Collie and my baby.
  7. I probably have more tattoos than is necessary for a corporate warrior.
  8. I believe Metal Band T-Shirts are perfectly acceptable attire for someone my age……
  9. ……unlike Crocs.
  10. Happiness is a good book, a collie at my feet, heavy metal in my ears and my wife by my side.

About this blog

Over the coming months I will be sharing thoughts and musings on running, reviews of heavy metal albums and my views on how to keep on running with metal!

Advertisements

First Long Run in a while.

The ups and downs of the heavy metal runner.

Its not really a long run, just under 12 miles. After all I have run further, much further, on many an occasion. But over the last two months, I have not ventured past the 9 mile mark. Injury’s do that to you. This particular route is quite tough, I still remember my first attempt at it back in 2016. I slogged my way through it, stopping regularly to let my legs rest after each hilly section. I think I ran it in something like 09:40 min mile average. It hurt but I really enjoyed it, getting out into the countryside and making the most of the quiet surroundings – despite the metal pummelling my ears. It was at this point in my running journey that I discovered I had the legs and stamina to go further afield on my runs and not restrict myself to the suburban loops I had become accustomed to.

The last time I did this route was a few weeks after the Snowdonia marathon and I was in pretty good shape, I ran a personal best of a 7:52 min mile average on it and hell was I stoked! As I set off, it was around 6:15am, still dark and I had my head torch on. There is something about running in the dark that awakes the senses and creates a heady anticipation. I am still in recovery mode and mindful of my ankle, I planned to keep my pace nice and steady around the 08:30 min mile. It was blowing a gale (naturally the wind would be blowing into me) so keeping my pace down was a breeze – no pun intended.

Miles 2 and 3 of this run involve some steady climbing and this gives me time to sweep my head torch around and look for critters eyes glowing in the hedgerows, I wasn’t disappointed as a few small gleaming orbs peered back at the strange man in lycra trotting past them. As I hit miles 4 to 5 there is a nice downhill section where you can up your pace a bit with no extra effort. I stopped briefly to refuel with a gel and to say hello to a field of sheep.

Glowing eyes – one of the joys of head torch running.

The next couple of miles take me through a small village before the climbing begins again, 2 miles of it. It’s the section that has always been tough and indeed I used to stop on this one when I first started. This time, I lock in with a steady pace and begin to lose myself in the opening mellow vocals and quiet ambience of a track called Cages by Tesseract.

I first discovered Tesseract when I was having after work drinks with the MD of one of the businesses I work in. He mentioned Tesseract to me, and asked if I knew of them. I didn’t and asked how he did. Apparently their drummer used to work for him in a previous company. He played me some of their music, and I was immediately hooked.

Tesseract are one of those bands that forge their own path, they have been lumped in with the ‘DJENT’ style of metal but they are far more than chugging riffs and polyrhythms. Their music flits from ethereal dreamy sequences to hard grooving free flowing atmospheric head bangers. There is an underlying bass groove that carries most of their work and as a bass player myself, I am always in awe of the natural feel and flow of Amos Williams’ bass playing. If a category is needed, then they firmly sit in the Progressive Metal genre.

They have released four albums and a few EPs. Their first album One, is a heavier listen with more of the death metalesque vocals, courtesy of Daniel Tomkins. Altered State is their second album and with a different singer, Ashe O’Hara. This is the album where their sound matured and gave a sense of where there were going as a band. I rarely listen to this album as I really dislike the vocals, despite the album having some great riffs.

The albums Polaris and Sonder* followed with the return of Daniel Tomkins. Clean vocals feature for most of the albums, with the occasional scream/growl for emphasis where needed. In my opinion, both of these albums cement the Tesseract sound that has been hinted at in previous releases.

Sonder has a particular resonance for me. When you are out running, you see many short glimpses into the lives of people you’ve never met (and probably never will), when you slope past houses, cars and through villages; there is always someone about. Walking the dog, fetching a newspaper, heading out to work early. Take a look at the footnote for a definition of the word Sonder.

The band really found their niche on these albums. Cages features on the tail end of the Polaris album and is one of my favourite running tracks. It is a slow burner, building up and up over 5 minutes, before exploding into a crescendo of a heavy bass groove, distorted guitars and a shouted vocal of “Build your Cages! Cages of Solitude!” before all is quiet again.

Cages by Tesseract – A running essential in my playlists.

As those final words fade out, I have reached the top of the climb and am now happily descending back towards home for the final 4 miles of my run. This is a relatively easy section and I am feeling good. Juno from the album Sonder kicks in, the interplay of the slap bass and kick drums lifts me up a small climb and I coast out the remaining 4 miles with out any issue.

I get home in time to take Polly the Collie for a walk with Mrs B. As I am writing this the day after my run, my legs are feeling good, with no sense of having overdone it. It was not quite the 12 miles I intended, but certainly enough to give me the confidence that I am ready to put on the head torch, get out into the countryside and hit the longer haul runs again. Hedgerow critters, solitude and the open road await.

The head torch – otherwise known as the Critter Spotter.

*n. the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.


Chaos, a Collie and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

This weeks running. Easing my mileage back up.

This week is the start of my one month plan to ease myself back into my usual running routine and get my weekly mileage back into the early 30s. As I started this week’s training, I decided to include something that I have never bothered with, the warm up. I planned to start each run with 1 mile at a pace of between 09:30 and 10:00 min mile. This was harder than I thought, as I have a tendency to just stretch and then run my first mile quicker than I should. My usual pace on my sub 10 milers is somewhere between 07:30 and 08:00 min mile. Keeping my pace at 09:30 was pretty tough and required some discipline, especially when you are out in the cold and the dark.

There are many articles and blogs that cover the reasons behind the warm up, so I won’t go into it. The plan was simply to reduce the risk of my recent injury re-occurring and ensure that my muscles were suitable prepared for my run. This week I have run 23 miles over 4 runs (for the last month I have been doing around 15 miles with between 2 and 3 runs). My body has been fine with this, and the residual tightness from my injury is getting better by the day.

I promised Polly (the collie) that we would go running in the woods and fields today, so at 7am we left the house and I warmed up with a brisk walk to the lane leading to the woods. It was -4°c outside and we kicked off our run at a good pace. Polly was super excited to be running and we both enjoyed crashing through the woods and crunching over the frozen earth and icy puddles.

Out on the frosty trails with Dada.

After 4 miles we stopped to watch the sun rise together and took some time to enjoy the Winter scenery. Once the sun had risen, it became slightly warmer and we both managed to pick up the pace a bit more. Polly decided to extend the planned 5 miler to a 7 miler by choosing an extra loop for us to run.

Sunrise with Dillinger Escape Plan in my ears

One of the things I love about running in the woods and fields with Polly, is the somewhat chaotic and free flowing nature of our runs. When I am out on the roads, I have a fairly static tempo with a planned route and distance. Running with Polly, makes me stop and look around, take in the scenery and my pace goes up and down as I am watching Polly rather than my Garmin. Sometimes I will just follow her rather than tell her where to go, this is “Chaotic Collie Running”. Running for the joy of it rather than for the pace of it.

The Dillinger Escape Plan crashed into the music scene in the late 1990’s. Their chaotic blend of hardcore punk, metal and technical guitar wizardry created a cacophony of noise and energy that was felt across the metal community. The release of Calculating Infinity in 1999 was a step beyond anything other bands were doing at the time, with the possible exception of Meshuggah. Whilst Meshuggah had precision, technical prowess and a futuristic feel to their music, Dillinger were bat-shit crazy. Dillinger can be a tough listen for the uninitiated, their songs move seamlessly from chaos infused guitar theatrics and hardcore screams to melodic crooning and electronica. The thing I discovered with Dillinger is that the more you listen to them, the more sense it makes.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Milk Lizard. One of their more straightforward but no-less brilliant tracks.

The chaotic, almost random nature of their music makes it perfect for a Chaotic Collie run. We kicked off our run with Limerent Death, which is as complex and eclectic as it is heavy. A perfect starter song. After about 3 miles, we stopped to watch the sun rising and I had the mellow, almost crooning song, One of Us Is the Killer soothing my ears and my mind. Polly chose an extra 2 mile loop for us while Unretrofied locked me into a heavy pace on an uphill section, Polly showed off by sprinting to the top and then coming back for me. The tempo upped again with Crossburner, and that saw us both up the pace and dart across the frozen fields back towards the woods.

Once in the woods, Polly was “investdogating” critter noise in the bushes and chasing squirrels; in between bouts of bouncing up onto fallen logs. I believe Sunshine the Werewolf was playing at this point. After we cleared the woods and made it onto the track towards home, Black Bubblegum kicked in, which is possibly the most perfect non-pop, pop song ever written. This gave us a nice boost for the final mile back home.

Stopping for a quick cuddle with Polly – the Chaotic nature of Collie Running.

If you’ve not listened to The Dillinger Escape Plan, please give them a try, introduce some chaos into your running, walking or whatever it is your doing. Sometimes it’s nice not to be so rigid and structured for a bit. Let things happen and no matter what, The Dillinger Escape Plan will have you covered.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Recommended Listening, add a bit of chaos into your life.

Our own Architecture….

Ankle rehab is working.

As I continue on my journey of ankle rehabilitation, my strength training exercises have become an even more important part of my routine. My running sessions and distance have halved while I let my body heal, so I am keeping myself sane with my regular strength sessions.

When I started running, I just ran. Distance was my focus, getting the miles in and expecting the rest to follow. This became more apparent when I signed up for the Snowdonia marathon, I promptly upped my weekly distance, ran more often and damaged my Achilles in the process. A month off and I was back on it again, albeit with a more sensible training approach.

During my annual health check it was noted, that whilst I had lost weight, body fat was down etc. I had lost muscle mass. My core and my back in particular had lost some of their strength. I used to skateboard a lot more prior to running and this used to keep my legs, back, arms and core in reasonable shape. I was told I needed to build some strength training into my training plan.

I sat down with my laptop and did some searching on the internet and came across some useful links on the Runners World website. I built a routine out of these links that focussed on core, back, arms and legs. It was simple enough, all I needed was a couple of dumbbells and 30 minutes of my time. I followed this routine twice a week from the end of July until my marathon at the end of October. The links are below and provide a nice mix of exercises that you can ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ for your own needs.

https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20805692/10-essential-strength-exercises-for-runners/

https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20865330/weight-training-for-runners/?utm_medium=social-media&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=socialflowTWRW

After a month of this routine, I started to notice some subtle changes in my physique but more importantly, on my long training runs. Previously after about 16 miles, my back and shoulders would be aching and I would find myself having to stop and stretch. This went away and whilst I would be still tired after clocking in 23 miles, my body didn’t feel as battered as it used to.

I have kept this routine up since my marathon, and have started to notice an increase in my running pace, my legs and body feel stronger overall and I believe my running stance has changed for the better. I ran just under 10 miles this morning, and despite the lack of running over the last two months, I completed the run with relative ease at an average pace of 8:13. A year ago this would have seemed impossible.

The key message here is that we can be the Architects of the body that we want, if we want to run a marathon, we need to get the design right and implement it. Architect your routine to suit your challenge and the rest will follow.

Which brings me onto my choice of music for today’s run. Architects feature prominently in the playlist along with Parkway Drive and Bury Tomorrow. Three bands that released incredible albums in 2018. Parkway Drive’s Reverence, Bury Tomorrow’s Black Flame and Architects Holy Hell. Every one of these featured heavily during my runs in 2018 and continue to batter my ears.

Despite being a dyed in the wool metalhead in my youth, I had an affinity with the hardcore punk scene, which was prevalent amongst the skate/surf community I grew up with. I liked the fact that they always had something important to say, they stood up for their values and gave a positive, if sometimes, nihilistic message on what was going on in the world. Check out Black Flag’s track Rise Above as an example.

An awesome slab of hardcore punk. We liked to blast this when skating a rickety quarter pipe on the beach front.

The bands on this playlist have a similar approach. They call out the hypocrisy and destruction that is prevalent in todays decaying society. Sam Carter (Architects vocalist) in particular is a prominent voice of the damage we are doing to the environment, Bury Tomorrow and Parkway Drive take similar stances and to my mind are taking the values and messages of the hardcore punk era into a new generation. If one person can take these messages and think a bit more about their actions, then that can only be a good thing.

If you have not listened to these bands before, you could do a lot worse than explore the tracks on this playlist, you never know, you just might find that they can help you to Architect your training plan to your next challenge and give you something to think about on those long lonely training runs.

…of Foam Rolling & Yeti’s

9 Pain free miles

I have been suffering with an ankle injury of late. It’s meant a reduction in my weekly running mileage from somewhere in the region of 30 miles per week to about 10. I have been resting, stretching and supporting my ankle on my short ventures out to run. I believe the main cause of my ankle issue to be tight muscles in my calf. Something a Physio mentioned to me back in the summer was making use of a foam roller. I took the advice on board and promptly forgot to do anything about it – I had a marathon to train for after all…….

This week, I finally got round to ordering one. I watched a few videos on line, read some articles and gave it a go. Its not a pleasant experience, in fact it bloody hurts. I persevered and did notice an improvement in my calf/ankle the next morning. I did this twice a day over the next couple of days, and following a relaxing 2.5 hours in the tattooists, I was feeling pretty chipper. One point to note about foam rolling, a Collie is not an ideal companion when you are trying to sit on the floor with a foam roller. Paws in roller, head on your legs, claws in your calf – none of it is very helpful. Thank you Polly!

This morning, I woke up early, and was rolling again (Polly was still asleep – so it was a bit easier). My calf felt loose, my ankle had no pain, and I was ready to run. My usual routine of a mug of builders tea and some stretching and I was ready to go. I set off up the road, and was pleased to notice that I was running freely and without any stiffness rather than the Yeti like lumber I have had of late, which leads to my playlist for this run.

I first discovered All Hail The Yeti when they supported 36 Crazy Fists last January. They were loud, rocked hard and put on a great show. I met a couple of the band after the show, they were nice guys. Their first album is ok, but nothing special. Their second offering, Screams From a Black Wilderness is a huge step up. There is not a bad song on this album and I recommend checking it out, it featured on a lot of my training runs in 2018, so I was really looking forward to their latest offering, Highway Crosses.

The album starts off with a collection of 5 songs that could all be hit singles. A particular favourite of mine is the opener, Live Everyday – a dirty grinding rhythm with wah-drenched sections and Connor Garrity’s bellow contrasting beautifully with the clean vocals of Nick Dilitz who handles their Bass duties with style and some low down heavy riffs. There are heavier sections on the album which bring to mind Down and in some parts Mastodon (without the over complexity that Mastodon tend to employ). The album closes with Nuclear Dust – which has a chorus that you will want to bellow along to.

My running playlist, aptly named, Yeti Foam Roller, had to include a few prime cuts from this album as they are pure running fodder. I started my run with Tesseract – Cages, it’s a slow burner and perfect for the first 0.5 mile warm up. Clutch kick in next with The Regulator, another of my running staples and by the time the Yeti kick in with Highway Crosses, I am warmed up and locked into a nice steady 8.30 min mile pace.

Bring Me The Horizon may have divided opinion with their new sound, but to me Mantra is great track and works so well as an up tempo running track; a smattering of Parkway Drive, Bury Tomorrow and Pig Destroyer keep me happily running through the dark streets and I complete my final mile 9 with a Yeti sandwich – Slow Season and Mr Murder with Architects Seventh Circle as the filling between them.

I cooled down with some stretches and Clutch singing about Emily Dickinson, who was an American poet from the early 1800’s who lived a reclusive life and despite having written over 1800 poems, she only published about 12 during her life. Amazing what you can learn listening to metal.

I am resting up after my 9 miler this morning and looking forward to chilling out for the rest of the day. I guess the key message with any injury is to be patient with your recovery and instead of running through it, work to rehabilitate and look forward to your pain free runs in the future.

1 hour and 25 mins of running goodness.

Soilwork – Verkligheten

#Runwithmetal review

I’m sitting at my desk grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat, firstly I have just completed a run and my troublesome ankle seems to be a lot better, secondly (and most importantly) I have just been listening to the latest offering from Soilwork whilst I ran the best part of 6 miles.

Prior to my run, I had given this album a few spins and was already pretty damn impressed with it. How would it hold up as a running album?

The album starts with the small instrumental piece, Verkligheten (Swedish for Reality) it is mellow and slightly foreboding. Its a nice easy start into my run and gets me off my street into the main drag of my run.

Arrival is the next track, this song screams ‘majestic’ from start to finish. After 30 seconds or so of bombastic drums and Wagnerian keyboards, the song kicks in and smacks you in the face with pounding riffs and growling vocals building up to a soaring melodic chorus. As this pummelled my ears, I felt like Mercury the messenger of the Gods as I ran through my village. I had to work hard to keep my pace down with this track.

There is no time to catch your breath as Bleeder Despoiler rolls in with a dirty, nasty riff that begs to be played loud on the Sunset Strip, but the road out of my village will have to do. This track has an awesome running tempo and locks me into a nice 8 min mile pace.

Full Moon Shoals enters my ears with a clean guitar intro that soon morphs into another hard rocking riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Ozzy’s earlier albums. Its another good tempo riff with a build up into a souring chorus. My pace is now nicely locked in at 8 min mile. I am enjoying myself.

Another clean guitar intro brings forth The Nurturing Glance which kicks in with a classic Soilwork guitar sound before twisting into a sleazy gut punching riff that Motley Crue wish they had written for the Girls Girls Girls album. This builds into another one of their soaring choruses. I have to work hard not to sing this out loud and scare the locals.

When The Universe Spoke is up next, and whilst this is not a bad song by any stretch, it seems a bit formulaic after the previous four tracks. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable track, if a bit forgettable.

The next track is the first song I heard prior to the release of this album, I was not impressed. My second and subsequent listens have changed my mind. Stalfagel kicks off with a truly 1980’s euro-metal sound. The pounding beat leads into a magnificent chorus (which according to Mrs B – reminds her of Leo Sayer’s Thunder In my Heart – weird, but listen to it and there is something in this!) However, Leo Sayerisms aside, this song is built for a good tempo trot, and I was really enjoying pounding the streets with this in my ears.

The Wolves Are Back in Town is up next and despite a Thin Lizzy nod in the title, the song is an absolute banger, it gave me a nice push up a hill. Driving riffs and another one of those soaring ear worm choruses. Throughout this album Bjorn ‘Speed” Strig’s vocals have been magnificent. His range is second to none.

Witan is the other track on this album that hasn’t really grabbed me. It keeps me going nicely to my fourth mile. When the clean intro of The Ageless Whisper kicks in, I smile as I know this track is another up-tempo, hard-riffing, chorus shouting monster. I am still maintaining a steady 8 min mile tempo, all thoughts of tweaked ankles are banished, I am in the zone of Soilwork and all is good.

Needles and Kin is where Soilwork throw in some of their Death Metal influences, but manage very cleverly to add in some clean contrasting vocals to the overall guttural growls. This riffs are thick and heavy on this one.

Finally, You Acquiver, brings the album to a close in typically grandiose fashion. I am just heading back down my street and press stop on my watch just as the chorus kicks in. I have to break into a gentle cool-down jog to give myself time to enjoy this one. It’s a great end to what I think is a classic album.

To sum up, this album made me smile, it took me back to when I first discovered metal in the early 1980s, the days of listening to Crue, Ratt, Ozzy and Maiden. This is by no means a carbon copy of 80’s metal, rather a nod to past with a fresh perspective on some classic sounds. The vocal performance is awe inspiring, Soilwork’s axe-men, play off each other beautifully and there are guitar solos that put me in mind of Randy Rhodes during the Blizzard of Oz era.

As a running album this ticks all the boxes, pace, tempo, uplifting melodies and enough variety to keep you entertained. The album came with a bonus EP which is good, but did not feature on my run.

  • Recommended Run Type – Tempo runs 5 – 6 miles
  • Album Positives – Vocals, uplifting chorus’s, blazing riffs, beautifully crafted guitar solos and thundering drums.
  • Album Negatives – A couple of tracks too formulaic and a bit forgettable. The bass is a bit buried in the mix.
  • Overall score – 4/5.

Finding The Groove

The first full week of January is over. I have not been running that much, due to an ankle injury. However, when I have ventured out on a tentative easy run, I have seen a few new runners. I always see the New Year runners for about a week or so and then they disappear.

Many people approach New Year resolutions with a peak of enthusiasm at the beginning, but fail to stick with it, myself included. However, I did start running and it has stuck with me for nearly 4 years.

It got me thinking about why I started running and how I managed to stick at it. When I started, it was back in February 2015 and for reasons that escape me I decided to sign up for a 10k hill run in my local mountain biking centre.

My first run of 1.5 miles was a killer, I was surprised, as I thought I was reasonably fit from years of skateboarding and mountain biking. I may well have been, but I wasn’t fit to run. Needless to say, as I stood at the bottom of my drive, puffing and panting, dripping with sweat and hunched over trying to catch my breath, I had not enjoyed myself.

Two more runs followed over the coming weeks, they were not a success and I was ready to call time on it. I decided to try a longer run of 2 miles and reduce my pace significantly. I also decided to take some music with me. 36 Crazy Fists had just released the album Time and Trauma and I had an early start for my run – 6am. This time something clicked, the run was still hard, but I found myself enjoying the solitude and the pounding riffs from Alaska’s finest export.

Until that point my runs had been at various times of the day. From that day onwards, I chose to run early in the morning and my pre-run routine the evening before, was simply getting my gear ready and waiting for me in the spare room, making my running playlist and deciding on my distance/pace goal.

This became what I call my ‘Groove’. Just like my old vinyl edition of Among The Living by Anthrax, I became stuck in the groove that skipped halfway through the track ‘One World’ to my favourite track – ‘ADI-The Horror of It All’. My ‘Groove’ skips me from early morning slumber to wide awake and ready to pound the streets.

Once I found this ‘Groove’ I enjoyed my runs and looked forward to the next run, rather than dreading it. This routine has stayed with me and I rarely start a run after 7am. Indeed starting my first marathon at 10:30am felt alien to me. As I ran the first few miles I felt out of sorts, I realised that my ‘Groove’ was out of kilter and the fact that I could not use headphones made it all the more difficult. This is why I tend not to enter races. I run to enjoy, and I enjoy running with music.

If you are struggling to get into a routine for anything, you need to find your individual ‘Groove’. Once you are stuck in it, you can’t get it out of your head, and the routine will follow. Are you a morning person or do you come alive post lunchtime? There is no point trying to do something when you are not at your best. I can count on one hand the amount of evening runs I have done, and probably the same for afternoon runs. However in 2018 I clocked up over 1300 miles from my 6am ‘Groove’.

Which leads me back to the New Year runners, is their ‘Groove’ not working for them? What is your ‘Groove’ and is it working for you?

“You can always tell when the groove is working or not.”

Prince
Anthrax – Among the Living, a 1980’s thrash classic