Friday, May 19, 2017

Ten Great Chris Cornell Songs For Your Running Playlists


As a long time fan of Chris Cornell (lead singer and songwriter for Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog), I was devastated to hear of his sudden unexpected passing this last Wednesday. I'm normally not the kind of person who takes this kind of news hard, but damn...I could not snap out of my funk.

Then I looked at my iPhone and realized there were 30+ years of his songs all over my running playlists. Songs to get my rage on, songs for contemplation, songs that reminded me of growing up in Oregon as the grunge scene formed. His music is the backdrop of my life, from raging teen slam dancing in the front rows of their concerts, to being a musician who could appreciate his craftsmenship as we picked apart their songs. I am super grateful for his music and his inspiration.

So with that, I give you the Top 10 Chris Cornell songs on my running playlists. These are in order of "most often played", and have more to do with the beat/pace than are these his biggest hits. But I hope you'll find some gems in here to add to your playlists.
  1. Superunknown (Soundgarden - Superunknown). This is a good chunky metal song, and one of the best examples of Cornell's soaring voice. Lyrics are ultrarunner worthy as well - "If this doesn't make you feel, it doesn't mean you've died...if this isn't making sense, it doesn't make it lies...alive in the superunknown". 
  2. Burden In My Hand (Soundgarden - Down On The Upside). This is one of his more popular songs, and it grabs you right away with some country instrumentation and Cornell singing "Follow me into the desert, as thirsty as you are...". Definitely follow him out into the sunshine!
  3. Seasons (Singles Soundtrack) - One of Cornell's outstanding acoustic songs, this is a great one for your long runs. He slowly takes you into the dark side, then with one note changing from minor to major, pulls you right out. 
  4. Pushin' Forward Back (Temple of the Dog) - Many don't realize that it was Chris Cornell that formed Temple of the Dog as a tribute to his former roommate, and the artists he rounded up included a little-known singer named Eddie Vedder (and the musicians that would become Pearl Jam). This song has a killer groove, and is very punk...certainly more uptempo than Hunger Strike, which is the song most people know from this band. 
  5. Outshined (Soundgarden - Badmoterfinger) - You'll recall this breakout song for Soundgarden the moment Cornell says "I'm looking California and feeling Minnesota", but for running, nothing beats the heavy bass of the chorus when he asks you to "show me the power, child". 
  6. Rhinosaur (Soundgarden - Down On The Upside) - This 12-count beat will get you rolling along the trail, particularly when he describes you as "only happy when you hurt, only healthy in the dirt". Word.
  7. Shadow of the Sun (Audioslave) - When Cornell joined the musicians from Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave, a few of their songs had a great balance of his melancholy with the heavy thump of Rage. This is a good one, and includes the lyrics "every drop of flame/lights a candle in/memory of the one/who lives inside my skin", which is quite honestly how I think of him right now. The song Doesn't Remind Me of Anything is also a good selection. 
  8. Pillow Of Your Bones (Chris Cornell - Euphoria Morning) - Another song with a catchy groove, while Cornell's iconic voice boundlessly slides into the stratosphere. I still have no idea what he means by pillow of your bones, but often my bones feel they could use a pillow when I'm running. The song You Can't Change Me is also a good one from this solo album, particularly if you've ever tried to resist falling in love with a woman who can change the world. 
  9. A Thousand Days Before (Soundgarden - King Animal) - This whole album is solid, but the groove on this song is particularly good for running. When there's no one else, I'll stand beside myself...love it.
  10. Jesus Christ Pose (Soundgarden - Badmoterfinger) - When you need to get your rage on, this song will get you there with its relentless pace and audio attack worthy of its philosophical position. If you need something more mellow, try Searching With My Good Eye Closed
So many more good tracks beyond this, it's hard to pick ten. Do you have a favorite that I missed? Let us know below...

...and thanks again, Chris. You will be missed!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Communing in the Redwoods at The 2017 Avenue of the Giants Marathon

In the far reaches of the Northern California coastline lies a magical ancient forest, stunning in its revelatory power. Giant coastal redwoods, in one of their last native habitats on the planet, have stood here for millennia. Their magnitude, both in size and age, are such an otherworldly phenomena, one can do little more than add to their serenity with jaw-dropped silence when in their presence. It is a level of grandeur beyond imagination, beyond comprehension, that simply must be experienced.

(Doing laps around Giant Tree, a 700-year-old redwood)
(Amazing trails!)
Such is the backdrop for the aptly named Avenue of the Giants Marathon, where 2,000+ runners gathered for its 46th running and the RRCA State Championship race. The roads along this historic 30-mile drive through Humboldt Redwoods State Park would be closed for a day so 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon runners could enjoy some quiet time in this special sanctuary. Like many of them, I came a few days early to explore the towns and trails in the area.

(Avenue of the Giants)
(It's hard to capture the scale of these giants...I'm the little black dot on the left)
As a resident of the California coastal range, I am no stranger to redwoods. But the sheer majesty of this park, full of 300+ foot tall, million pound giants, unexpectedly brought me to my knees. Its scale hits with delirious force at every turn, yet within this cradle of seeming immortality lies a preciously fragile world. It took a full day exploring its lush trails to understand the self-contained ecosystem that takes almost 900 years to play out a single turn. I found it oddly comforting that many of these trees predate the English language that had now left me wordless.

(Catching the morning rays in Fern Canyon)
(When this million pound tree fell in 1991, it measured on the seismograph in a town 10 miles away)
(Coastal redwoods grow in excess of 300 feet, and live to be 400-700 years)
(Just in case redwoods like the banjo, I had a few tunes for them)
There is also much to do in the area beyond the redwood forests. I was a solo tourist on this trip, which provided plenty of opportunities to seek out local wildlife and attractions. I saw live elk walking on sand dunes, eagles yanking fish from the stream, and flying squirrels crossing the canopy in chase of one another. When it came time for food, there was fine dining at Ivanhoe in Ferndale, mashed potato cones in Trinidad, "adult" root beer in Redcrest, and delicious seafood at every stop. But every couple of hours, I found myself back in the redwoods, wandering quietly, meditating among the giants. I met a bunch of other runners doing the same - the Kirkpatrick family from Montana, a couple from Alberta, Canada, a pack of students from Davis, CA, two friends from Texas - all joking that our constant upward glance would certainly help our running posture. It was apropos that no mobile or Internet connection could (or would) dare enter these sacred grounds. This was an experience to be shared in person, later spoken of in gasps and ah's that would do it justice.

(Who's up for a mashed potato cone?)
(Sorrel at sunset)
(A fallen redwood is a two lane bridge)
Race day was a perfect way to share it with my running brethren, and Sunday morning couldn't come soon enough. At 7:45am, the 400 marathoners were sent down one out-and-back section on Mattole Road, with all the other runners heading down the Avenue of the Giants soon after (we would see them in the second half). We got our countdown and were off!

(And we're off! Photo courtesy of Yoon Kim, Six Rivers Running Club)
(Here we come!)
(It didn't take long before we were all spread out)
I paced along with local Tami Beall (here for her 5th "Ave"), Washington track star Megan Alfi (fresh off a 5,000m competition the day before), and Adam Goering from Eugene, OR. The road was uneven and full of potholes, so it felt more like a trail run for the first few miles. But the wind that kept our collars up the previous two days was gone, and the temperature was a crisp 50 degrees, so it was quite pleasant for running.

(The lead women stick close in the early miles)
By the time we hit the turnaround (mile 6.5), Benjamin Arbaugh from Westminster, MD, was a minute ahead of Arcata's Aaron Campbell, both running a sub-2:40 marathon pace. A few more runners were about 2 minutes back. The lead women were grouped closely, with less than 30 seconds between Katarina Mueller (Vancouver, WA), Alfi, Beall, and Dani Reese (Portland, OR). I found myself running with Darren Rees (a recent transplant to Santa Cruz, well ahead of pace to lock in a 3:20 BQ), and we were roughly in 12th/13th place.

(Stoked!)
(Early leader Benjamin Arbaugh is too fast for my camera)
The return path was glorious as the sun peeked through the giant redwoods and warmed up the valley. By mile 10, I was running by myself, with nothing but the bubbling creek racing me back to the Eel River. I pondered what sage advice these redwoods would have after all they have seen, and if they had any special secrets for a life long-lived. Or perhaps they have already been telling us in their own swaying sign language, but it takes 200 days to communicate the first sentence, far too long for us busy humans.

(The scenery never gets old!)
When we hit the halfway point (mile 13.1, ~1:26) and turned onto the Avenue of the Giants, we joined the half marathon and 5k/10k runners where the party kicked into full gear. Costumed walkers, dogs and kids, signs and cowbells, and serenading friends lined both sides of the road. The fast marathoners had to stick to the double yellow line in the middle, but that meant plenty of high fives from both sides. For a flat course, there weren't a lot of flat sections - it seemed we were always slightly up or slightly down. 

At the last turnaround (mile 20), I was grateful for every section of downhill as my hiking-weary legs slowed their turnover. I managed to catch a few marathoners along the way, pulled by a group of sprinting half marathoners looking to go sub-2 hours (#breaking2!). I soon found myself across the finish line in 2:56 for 7th place and the Masters win.

(There's that finish line!)
(Avenue of the Giants champions!)
Aaron Campbell (2:35) had closed strong for the Marathon win, with Asheville, NC's Arek Robinson (2:39) and Boston's Kyle Coffee (2:49) finishing out the podium. The Women's race was settled in the last four miles, with Megan Alfi (2:59), Katarina Mueller (3:03), and Tami Beall (3:09, Masters winner by 30 minutes) taking the top spots. (all results) 62-year-old Jeff Wells from Woodland, TX, clocked an amazing 3:18, with 59-year-old Brian Nelson from Bakersfield, CA, just seconds behind him. Those are some fast old guys! Race Director Cindy Timek and her crew handed out some beautiful awards, which included Eel River IPA's that were promptly consumed.

(A good haul on swag, complete with beer)
(One last nap in the forest)
I stole away for one last trail run before heading home, eager to share a few more moments in this glorious playground. I took a short nap in the thick sorrel, nestled in the bosom of a giant that fell a short century ago. The redwoods whispered gently from their swaying canopy....


Our time here is brief, so
reach for the stars every moment you can
Fear not for the day you fall
for the world will blossom from your riches

So glad I stopped to listen!

My thanks to the Race Director, her amazing crew and volunteers, and all the runners who helped make this an once in a lifetime trip. If you haven't been to this part of the world, you simply must come, and the Avenue of the Giants is an ideal host. Hopefully I will see you there!

- Scott

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Nike Sub-2 Hour Marathon Attempt Will Be Broadcast Live This Friday

If you're interested in watching the Nike Sub-2 Hour Marathon Attempt at the Formula 1 track in Monza, Italy, this Friday, it will be streamed live at Nike's Facebook pageRunners World, and LetsRun.com at 11:45 p.m. Eastern/8:45 p.m. Pacific. There is likely going to be some pre-race build up, so log in early if you want to check it out.



Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa cruising along at a 4:34 min/mile pace in the strangest (and possibly illegal) shoes ever....even if it fails, gotta say, it's some wicked good PR. ;-)