Sunday, November 10, 2013

If You're Going Through Fiddle Hell

            Last night I had the opportunity to take in a unique bit of culture.  I made the nearly two-hour drive from Cape Cod up to Concord, Massachusetts to check out something called ‘Fiddle Hell.’  It was a collection of some of the most skilled string musicians on one stage.  I will be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about fiddling, fiddle players, songs, etc.  That said I was able to appreciate the talent and time it takes for one to become viewed as one of the best at what you do in any field.
            Upon arrival in Concord it was easy to get a good vibe. Even in the mid-autumn evening there were musicians carrying cases all over the place.  The historic buildings of one of the oldest towns in America were lit up preparing for the Christmas season already.  The cool crisp air completed the scene.  It felt like a very friendly and safe environment perfect for families.
Fiddle Hell actually goes for an entire weekend with workshops, meet and greets, concerts, jam sessions, and even contra dancing.  Fiddle Hell has been held since 2005 and is the lovechild of Dave Reiner and the Reiner family.  They did a tremendous job hosting the event.  The central location for musicians and visitors alike this year was The Colonial Inn.  It was built in 1716 but not used as a hotel until 1889.  Located next to Monument Square, Concord’s town common,
Outside the Colonial Inn
the Inn was within sight of the first battle of the American Revolution in 1775.
 There was a concert held at the Concord Scout House on Walden Street at 7pm on Saturday. The Scout House is an 18th century barn which was turned into a community meeting center in 1930. Inside it has a dilapidated charm which added to the ambiance of a fiddle concert.  The wooden seats were a bit uncomfortable but again it all seemed appropriate.  Host Dave Reiner began the concert and his sons were an integral part as well one emceeing and the other playing piano.
I will reiterate that I know nothing about fiddling so I will not try to pretend that I could appreciate the references to famous fiddle players of the past.  All I can do is report what I saw and heard and that I truly enjoyed it.  My personal favorites were the father-son duo of Ed and Neil Pearlman who played Scottish music of fiddle and piano. I also liked Neil’s black fedora which made me feel better about wearing my own to the concert.  I made a point to seek him out and shake his hand for his music and hat.  I enjoyed Berklee Artistic Director Matt Glaser and his ‘Red Wagon’ song which brought the crowd into play to help sing.  He, along with many of the performers, has a charming eccentricity that makes you feel you already know them and could sit and chat with them even if you have no musical talent or knowledge like myself.
I may not play an instrument but being a writer and photographer who works nonstop bettering my craft I can relate to how much time and effort goes into making an upper echelon fiddle player.  It was a really fun evening and something new in my life.  I could not name each and every player from the concert but have included links to some pages so their work can be heard and appreciated.  Even if you are not a fan of fiddling take a moment to listen because it doesn’t take a fan to appreciate hard work and dedication. Those are qualities that lead to success and that everyone should have.   

Great job Fiddle Hell!

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, and stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter and YouTube for more on In My Footsteps!

            Matt Glaser - Berklee Profile Page
            Concords Colonial

Monday, November 4, 2013

In My Footsteps: Cape Cod Videos

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 - The Year of Speed Training and PR's

            Running is my passion. Running is at times my life.  I run for fun, mostly I run as training.  I run races of different lengths and obviously would train differently for a 5K than for a marathon.  At least, that’s the way I used to do it.  About a year ago I overtrained for my first marathon and injured my left Achilles tendon in the process.  My body was not used to the high increase in mileage and by the time I had realized that it was wearing on me I was only a few weeks out from the Cape Cod Marathon and decided to just keep going and worry about the impact on my body after the race was over.
            After some soul searching and talking with people I decided that the only way I’d be able to keep running was if I changed my mechanics.  I was a heel striker, meaning that everytime I landed I was jarring my Achilles and calves.  This of course over time would continue leading to injuries that would likely get worse and probably end my running life.  However, changing ones stride is easier said than done.
            Once I had sufficiently recovered from my Achilles injury I needed new shoes.  It was then that I found out that not only had I been fitted in shoes a size too small, but I had also been fitted for stability shoes when, after watching my stride in action, I was told I needed neutral shoes.  I had higher hopes after getting the proper shoes, Brooks Ghost 5.
            I began by having to train myself to land with a midfoot strike, doing short distances to make sure that I kept the form.  I signed up in February for the Hyannis Half Marathon with a goal of just finishing uninjured.  My time of 2 hours was less important compared to the fact that I had completed it with no recurrence of my Achilles injury and had kept my newly formed running stride intact.  I decided to go harder for the Johnny Kelley Half Memorial Day weekend.  It was at this time that I stumbled upon a training program that changed my running life.
            It’s not some big secret, just something that worked for me.  Essentially I would run as far as I could as fast as I could.  When I was gassed out I was done, simple as that.  I believe it’s known as Tempo Running, or at least that’s what it’s akin to.  It wasn’t that I was trying to get my runs over with as fast as possible, it was more that the runners in my family had said I was built more for speed and that distance training was sort of going against the genetic grain.  That was music to my ears; honestly I did not like distance training, 20+ mile runs and the toll they took wore me out mentally as much as physically.
            At first I was only able to go 3-4 miles but I kept my midfoot stride going and pushed a little further each time.  I began to notice my pace dipping while the distances grew.  By the time the Johnny Kelley Half came around I was pulling a 7:30 pace for 7-8 miles.  My idea with this type of training was if I could go as hard as I could for 7-8 miles I’d surely be able to do maybe 80% of that for 13.1.
            That plan worked perfectly.  I ran the Johnny Kelley Half in a few ticks under 1:48, breaking my personal best in the half by 7 minutes, and finishing 12 minutes ahead of my pace at the Hyannis Half just 3 months earlier. 
Was it a fluke?  I’d have to wait until October and the Harwich Half to find out.  In between those races I kept on doing my ‘going all out’ runs nonstop.  I eventually was able to go 10 miles carrying a 7:10-7:20 pace, the speed training felt like it was making everything click.
 My next goal was a sub-20 5K.  I took a shot in Bristol, Rhode Island in June.  Unbeknownst to me the 5K was a trail race with stumps, rocks, and sharp turns on paths.  I had never run a trail race and was not familiar with the trails at Colt State Park.  Still when the gun sounded I went all out.  My feet pounded on the stumps and rocks but I pulled off a 20:32/6:37 pace, close but no cigar. 
            Only a few weeks later I signed up for the Cotuit Firecracker 5K which was on streets I was familiar with.  This time I was not denied.  I was ready to pass out and gave everything I had but crossed the finish line in 19:47, I had achieved a major running goal.  I owe it all to the speed training.  Still, the true test of whether the speed training worked for longer distances was still to come with the Harwich Half.
            I went into this race only wanting to break my PR of 1:48 nothing more, just keep moving in the right direction.  I started faster than I wanted to but held a 7:20 pace through 9 miles, it was then that I realized I could theoretically speed walk to the end and set a PR.  The only thing that went wrong during this race was my calves tightening up around Mile 11.  I had to slow down some but it was no big deal with the cushion I had created.  I crossed the finish line in 1:41, topping my previous PR by over 6 minutes, amazing myself in the process.  I could not believe I had that in me and I owe it all to the speed training.
            After completing the Cape Cod Half Marathon Trilogy in 2013 I feel like as long as I keep training this way that there’s no telling how low these times might go.  Maybe this type of training isn’t for everyone, maybe it’s a bit unconventional.  All I have are the concrete numbers from my races to show that it works for me.
            What about my fellow runners? Do you have any training methods that are seen as unconventional?  How did you start training that way?  What effect did they have on your races? 

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter
Cape Cod Half Trilogy Medals

I am right in the middle.           

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Show, Don't Tell

'Actions speak louder than words.' 'Show, don't tell.' These are basically the same thing and are phrases I live by.  I have also come to truly believe that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it. In other words, bad things will happen but what do you do after? Do you pick yourself up and keep on moving forward?  Or do you let whatever happened end up defining who you are as a person from then on?
I will speak in terms of a breakup or end of any sort of relationship. If it ends badly naturally you would rather not interact with that person if at all possible. How far do you go to achieve that? If you work together do you leave your job? If you live together do you move out? Sometimes it's very easy to not see a person if you put your mind to it, sometimes it's not so easy and you must either suffer or make a difficult choice.
Today I made a choice but it is not as dramatic as switching jobs or moving out. However, the action will make this seem more dramatic. I switched gyms which in and of itself is hardly a blip on life's radar. The meaning behind it will not be lost on those closest to me though. I am leaving the supposed 'best' gym in my area to go to an average gym. It's cheaper and closer to home which is great but it'll be a step down for sure. I am doing this to make sure I have no interaction with a specific person who frequents that old gym, and who actually is the one that got me to switch there 2 years ago. 
What this means in more relatable terms to most people is I would rather have something less and be happy than have the best but be miserable.  Choosing something less to effectively remove someone from your life is a very powerful statement.  It is the age old debate between 'holding on' and 'letting go.' In order to go further in my life I must be willing to let go of whatever causes me pain and distraction. The gym is really only a metaphor for a greater statement. Maybe my actions will finally show this person how much hurt they caused, probably not. I am doing this for me and my future. The only way to begin a new chapter is to end the old one first. So with one small change I have closed a chapter, tomorrow we begin anew.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Treadmill As A Metaphor Pt. 1: Who I Was

Treadmill As A Metaphor: Who I Was 

A treadmill normally refers to a machine that runners, such as myself, use to stay active when it is either too cold or the weather is too severe to run outside. However it can also be a metaphor that writers such as myself use to describe the feeling of being stuck in place and not getting anywhere. The latter is how I am using 'treadmill' for this post.
I received a book deal during the summer of 2011. It was an amazing and exciting culmination of over 6 years of nearly nonstop work. I had basically forgone having a social life for so long, replacing that with the process of brainstorming, plotting, writing, editing, and self publishing ebooks of all shapes and sizes. I shared my work through Amazon's Kindle store but also ended up getting linked to companies like Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, and the defunct Borders. Sure it was difficult, sometimes thankless, sometimes tedious, and at some points it felt as though I was simply throwing darts at a board in the dark. I never knew if anyone was even seeing what I had done.
Thomas Edison had a famous quote that I used to keep me going. He said, 'Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.' I kept telling myself that all I needed was for the right set of eyes to fall upon one piece of my work just one time and that would be all I needed to make it all worthwhile. So I kept on going, writing children's books, suspenseful short stories, collecting old poetry into anthologies. I was trying to create a sort of buffet of work so that I'd have something for all types of readers.
The idea of travel writing, which would incorporate my love of writing along with photography and travel did not come organically. It came as a sort of defense mechanism. When my Nana died just after Christmas in 2009 I did not want to deal with the grief and did not want to feel that pain. I would routinely get into my car and drive off, going to places that did not remind me of her. While there I would shoot some photos and generally feel better about things. I began to seek out specific places in towns nearby to write about and combine them all into articles I posted on Blogspot entitled 'In My Footsteps.'
My goal was to give the reader a complete picture of what I saw, where I was, and what I felt. These articles became a passion/obsession. Each one was time spent away from grieving for my Nana and ended up being a new creative spark that excited me. 
During the first few months of 2010 I was on the road a ton since I had the entirety of New England to visit, shoot, and write about. I must have posted thirty articles during the spring. I was doing it more for me and my own sanity but I also thought that if others enjoyed what I was sharing that was a plus.
The places I traveled to eventually got further away and I was able to spend some amazing days and nights in spots I will never forget. Driving into the White Mountains in New Hampshire at sunset was almost surreal while the moment I stepped foot into Gloucester, Massachusetts cemented it as my favorite town in New England.  However, the 24-Hour period in which I watched the sunset from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine and then drove out to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine might rank as the best 24 hours of my life. It was after that trip that I decided that travel writing was what I wanted to do and was meant to do. All I needed was a break.
I got that break through a Facebook friend whose book I spotted on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble in the Cape Cod Mall.  I asked her how she got it published and she put me in touch with her publisher.  After detailing my plans for a Cape Cod travel guide in an email I crossed my fingers and hoped the publisher would like what I was selling.
I remember sitting at West Dennis Beach on a warm July evening having just finished eating in my car. It was just an average summer night until my phone rang with an unfamiliar number.  On the other end was the publishing company and what they said changed my life forever. They loved the idea of my Cape Cod travel guide and wanted to publish it! All I could do was thank them and try my best to contain the squeals of joy I wanted to let out.  Once we set up another time to discuss more details I hung up and ran up onto the sand dunes and simply said 'Yes!' I held my arms outstretched and smiled as wide as I could. After so many years of working nonstop toward a dream that at times felt like it might never happen I had finally received the break I had so desperately wished for. No matter where I went from that moment I would always be a published author.

-Part 2 Still to come...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sunset Running

The growing silence and changing colors in the sky. There is nothing quite like a good sunset run. I will many times use my running as a sort of meditation to think about any problems I am having in my life; the atmosphere created during a sunset run only enhances this.  Personally I enjoy either runs along the beaches or the solitude of bike trails, today I utilized a bike trail running through a local golf course. The lowering sun filtering through the surrounding trees was magnificent and helped to create a sort of moment where it became less about the actual running and more about the feeling of total peace inside. I knew my feet were moving, rapidly I might add, but things felt much slower in my mind. It's runs like these that make me so glad that I discovered this passion.  Sure, I could go and walk and see the same sights but the added bonus of burning a thousand calories makes running all the better choice. I am so lucky to live in an area like Cape Cod where there is never a shortage of beautiful running routes to get lost in.  These are the types of runs I mention when explaining to non-runners why I do what I do. Even better I take photos of the beauty I see and share them with anybody; they always seem to entice even the staunchest non-runner to 'maybe' give it a try.
Today was 8 1/2 miles of meditation, a chance to rid my mind of any negative thoughts that had crept in during the day. I'm a runner, so naturally running is my meditation. I am sure however many people have other passions that double as chances to meditate. Fishing, music, painting, I am sure there are many others I'm missing but the end result is the same.
Do any of you runners enjoy sunset runs? Do you get to the same meditative state that I have been talking about?
Along Bass River in West Dennis, Ma.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dream Big, Run Hard

     So, very soon I will have a book published and available in every bookstore and online.  Now comes the hard part: Promotion and marketing.  I have been shooting a series of short videos correlating with each destination featured in my Cape Cod travel guide entitled In My Footsteps.  There are 89 places in all which makes it quite an undertaking.  Once each video is shot and edited they will be sporadically released and shared on YouTube as a viral marketing campaign.  This is probably good enough to drive tons of visitors to my book and my website equaling sales.  However, any of you who know me know that 'good enough' is rarely ever good enough.
     I began to think of other innovative ways to get the word out about my book.  It wasn't long until my other passion gave me the answer.  Running. Yes, running became the solution for promotion.  What better way to showcase a Cape Cod travel guide than by running the entirety of the Cape, passing by most of the places featured in the book?  Coming up with the idea was easy, actually putting it into action is obviously harder.  After using MapMyRun to create a route I now know that the total mileage will be 165, not something I can even feasibly do in a week.  I am aiming for 2 weeks, meaning close to 12 miles a day everyday for 2 weeks.  That seems more doable despite being like running half marathons for 14 straight days.
     Another potential drawback is that it is the peak of summer with the heat index on the Cape now routinely in the mid-90's.  Yes, there are probably health risks, but my book is coming out now, not in December and one must strike while the iron is hot, right?  I can safely assume that 99.99% of people would hear this idea and shoot it down without hesitation, and honestly I don't blame them.  This is not a normal promotional campaign but I am thinking outside the box.
     Once the plans are finalized I can start sharing them and publicity will follow. How often does someone attempt to run the entirety of Cape Cod anyway?  I don't need to run 7min miles for this, all I want is to do all 165 miles in the allotted time and in reasonably good shape.  So am I crazy? Or is this brilliant?  Or maybe a little of both?  I'm a runner, normal thoughts don't cross my mind often.  I will keep everyone posted on my Cape Cod run and my book release as more info comes around.
Yes I plan on doing this by choice.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Going Next Level: Johnny Kelley Half 2013

            I had trained for half marathons many times in the past. I had used other people’s training programs to get to where I thought I needed to be.  As happens with experience in any field the more you do things on your own the more apt you are to listen to yourself and not others.
            My last half marathon I ran was three months ago, and that one I had basically run with my goal being to cross the finish line uninjured.  After injuring my Achilles tendon during my marathon training last fall I had been hesitant to go all out in any sort of training for fear of reinjury.  After successfully completing the Hyannis Half in February I decided that I had recovered enough and it was time to let it all hang out.
            In training for the Johnny Kelley Half I chose a different route.  Rather than do the normal long run, tempo run, recovery run, etc training plan I focused on speed.  Nearly every run I did during my training was the same: run as far as I could as fast as I could.  It didn’t matter if I could only do four miles or if I could do ten, as long as I went all out and was sufficiently gassed at the end I had done it right.
            My ultimate goal was to build up my stamina, obviously.  Ideally in going all out for ten miles I would be able to pace myself better over a half distance and set myself a nice new personal best.  My runs leading up to the Johnny Kelley Half were routinely 7-9 miles with a 7:30 pace.  Using this info I set my eyes on a sub 1:50 half which would top my PB by about 5 minutes.
            Race day came, cool and raw.  The race route had to be changed due to the fact that one of the roads was being worked on by the Army Corp of Engineers.  They said that due to recent rains the road work could be compromised by a thousand runners.  The race route had to be changed on the fly.  This decertified the course, and also left no guarantee that the route would be exactly 13.1 miles. Let me end the speculation, it wasn’t.  Using my running app on my iPhone to keep my abreast of my time and pace I found that the new course was 13.6 miles, a half mile too long.
            I started slowly as I had learned was best for distance.  I’m being sarcastic as I have often had a problem with starting too fast, going with the flow of the crowd, and ending up tired by about Mile 8.  As I got past 5 miles I felt good, my legs were feeling it and I realized that my PB goal was easily in reach.  The speed training for the half was working. 
            I stayed on pace throughout the full course which seems minor but for me this was the first time that everything fell into place.  I finished the 13.1 in 1:48, beating my PB by nearly 8 minutes.  When I was done I had nothing left.  I crashed in the nearby grass as I normally do.  I like to lay in the grass for a few minutes to catch my breath and let my body recover. 
            Normally after a longer race the last thing I want to do is run again. I am normally so sore and sometimes injured.  After the Johnny Kelley Half all I wanted to do was run again.  I had finally found a training plan that worked for me and the best part was that it was my own.  I hadn’t read someone else’s plan or asked for advice. I had my own idea and put it into practice and succeeded.  Sure, this was an idea for training for a race, but it seems to be sort of a metaphor for life also.  Sometimes if you listen to yourself and follow the path you believe is best you will succeed.  As I go on in running and in life I believe that the lessons and results from this race will help me more than I know.
            What did it feel like to set a PB in a race for you?  What did you do differently in your training?  When you set the PB what did that do for your confidence in running? Did it spill over into the rest of your life?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

            It is amazing just how quickly things can change.  I first found that out on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were taken down by terrorists. The world changed that day.  I guess sadly the world changed again on Monday.  It makes you wonder why things happen the way they do, why some things don’t happen, and what goes into both.
            When there’s an attack on your country it hits you.  If there’s an attack in your state it hits you harder.  If there’s an attack that effects your family it hits you hardest.  Let me start by saying that my Uncle Steve and Cousin Kathleen are both all right but they were there in the line of fire during the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
            Obviously we live in a changed world since 9/11 where things like this can happen.  Still, who would have ever thought there would be a day where bombs were exploding at the finish line of a road race?  Think about that.  These were not politicians.  These were not soldiers fighting.  These were not any sort of authority figures.  These were runners, average people for the most part, who when they were so close to completing a huge task of running a marathon then found themselves being pelted with shrapnel from explosives.  This was not Iraq or Afghanistan, this was Boylston Street.
            I had tracked my Uncle Steve online and was updating friends at work about his progress as I was so proud of him not only running Boston at Age 60, but doing it after recovering from a fractured hip.  It was a truly inspirational story.  I am certain there were many other runners with similar tales of redemption but this one shares blood with me so it stands out.
            As I stated at the top it is amazing how quickly things can change.  I had seen my uncle’s finish time and posted a proud note on Facebook for everyone to see.  I had shared his time with folks at work and put my phone away.  Only minutes later I had been alerted of the explosions at the finish line.  We gathered to watch the television and my heart sunk.  It looked like a scene from a movie or at the very least a bad dream.  It was no accident, it was no coincidence, someone had bombed the Boston Marathon.  This was real.
            I immediately tried to get a hold of my uncle.  I told my mother about what was going on and she tried to get through to her brother.  Panic set in as it got to twenty minutes with no reply.  I knew that he had crossed the finish line somewhere around 2:46pm, I had no idea of when the bombs had gone off.  I had no idea if he might have finished and then gone back to the finish line to await friends.  People at work tried to say he was okay but I was not so sure.  I said until I knew he was okay he was not okay.   
            Thirty minutes passed, injury numbers began to be posted and with no word from my uncle or cousin I could only hope they weren’t a part of those numbers.  As the replays of the bombings and immediate aftermath played on a seemingly continuous loop my mind began to wander.  I could easily put myself in the shoes of those affected.  I am a runner and the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of races, the ultimate goal for many runners including myself. 
            Forty-five minutes passed with no word from my uncle or cousin.  Word got out that cellular service had been shut down in the event that the bombs had been cell phone activated and there were more around.  It was chaos.  I began to get texts asking about my uncle.  Maui, my friend of 20 years, said his wife had friends in that area that had yet to be heard from as well.  With tens of thousands of people coming together for the Boston Marathon it was harder to find people NOT affected than it was to find those affected.
            I tried to keep my cool to little avail.  Emily, as she always does, did her best to calm me down.  Only after did she tell me she was just as worried as me.  She offered to come down to my work to be there for me.  I posted another message on Facebook this time asking anybody who might have any info to post it, anything was better than the uncertainty.
            Finally after an hour we got word that both my uncle and cousin were all right.  Only minutes later word of casualties at the finish line came out.  It turns out that my uncle had crossed the finish line roughly five minutes before the bombs went off.  That is not a very long period of time.
            It was hard to fathom that ordinary people, running a road race, had been murdered by some evil coward/s.  I run all the time, and have run many races including a marathon, and never once did I feel my life was in danger.  How does that change going forward?  I have dreams of running all of these big time marathons in my future, and sadly I do wonder how safe they will be.  However, it will not stop me from running them.
            Later in the evening, after a long work day, I was finally able to sit on my own and think.  Sitting on a chilly fishing pier on Bass River I found myself wondering why some things happen, and why some things don’t happen.  When Emily said she had thought that it could have easily been us there on Marathon Monday it was not lost on me.  When I first started running my goal was to run the 2013 Boston Marathon with my uncle, I even made a sort of motivational poster for myself on the day of the 2012 race to remind me what was ahead.  It was not lost on me the fact that my goal time for the race was 4:05-4:10.  The bombs exploded as the race time read 4:09.  I had injured my Achilles during the Cape Cod Marathon in October and therefore did not qualify for Boston and I could have gotten in through an exemption thanks to my boss at work but did not want to risk further injury.
            If all had gone according to my goals, my aspirations, I would have been there in the middle of that horrific scene.  This is not about me, or about playing What-If games.  This is just about how close to home this tragedy has hit.  I feel it and will always feel it. 
My heart hurts so badly for the families of those who were killed going to watch a road race.  It’s supposed to be a happy day and a safe event.  My heart hurts for those grievously wounded, losing limbs and facing an unimaginable recovery process.  My heart hurts for those who went there to run or watch and now cannot or maybe will not anymore due to fear, I will not blame them for that. 
I will do all I can to be there on race day next year by any means necessary.  I will run for those who cannot.  It is amazing just how fast things can change.