A Simple Running Log

November 20, 2013

Training for 11/20/13

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 10:34 pm

I’m back! 

Clark and I had a wonderful time in Nashville and Memphis. We saw some good live music, ate a lot of great food, drank a lot a lot of beer and saw some pretty cool sights. I even got in some (pain-free!) running!

Last Tuesday night, we drove to Washington, D.C., the night before we left for Tennessee. Clark had bought tickets a while ago to see Gary Clark Jr., a blues guitarist who hasn’t yet put out an album but is already building a reputation. He was doing two shows at the 9:30 Club in downtown D.C. last week.

If we were smart, we’d have packed for our trip that morning before work, driven to D.C. for the show, stayed at his brother’s place in Annapolis after and then driven from there to the airport outside Baltimore the next morning. We thought about it, and Clark’s brother had no problem with us staying with him. But we’re both really bad about waiting until the last second to pack for anything, so instead, we drove to D.C. after work, saw maybe an hour and a half of the show until we were both nodding off on our feet (it didn’t start until 10 p.m. and we’re old now, remember?), drove all the way back home, got to bed at 2 a.m., packed the next morning and drove to the airport for our 1:15 p.m. flight.

The flight went fine. We picked up our rental car, a 2012 Ford Fusion, and drove to our hotel.

Clark’s been to Nashville a few times before, and he was shocked to see how much the downtown hotels were charging last week. It turned out our timing was impeccable — there was a Titans home game Thursday night and a Justin Timberlake concert Friday night, which is why the hotels were charging three to four times more than he remembered. We got a room at a Best Western about a mile and a half from downtown instead, and just walked a lot.

As soon as we got checked in, we walked to a place called The Slider House that wasn’t far from the hotel for a late lunch. If you can’t tell from the name, their menu was a huge selection of sliders. They also serve beers only in cans, and let you take the can koozie with you. My favorite souvenir — free.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a short nap. Surprisingly, we actually woke up a couple of hours later and headed downtown.

Wednesday night was really unseasonably cold in Nashville, down in the 20s. I was bundled up in a winter coat, hat and gloves, and I could still feel things going numb. We made it down to the strip on Broadway, where all the bars are lined up, one after the other.

Nashville is kind of a weird place for me to go voluntarily, considering my vehement hatred for country music. I can’t pinpoint what it is about the genre as a whole that just sets my teeth on edge, but I really can’t stand it. However, Clark had promised me that even though Nashville is the destination for wannabe country music stars, there were all kinds of music acts there, trying to get discovered.

So we walked past bar after bar on Broadway, all with a live band right on the other side of the front window, all wearing cowboy boots and singing some annoying, twangy, stupid country song at top volume. We ducked into B.B. King’s Blues Bar for a late dinner and, thank you God, a blues act.

The band finished up soon after we arrived and the place was pretty dead though, so after we’d eaten, we headed out again. Clark said if I heard anything that caught my attention, we’d go in; otherwise, we’d just head back to the hotel.

We didn’t have to walk too far before I finally heard it — a kick-ass cover of Alice in Chains’s “Man in the Box.” We went in this little dive bar called Big Shotz, where a few people were watching a cover band that called itself Sex Panther, with a lead singer who had a pretty heavy Jack Black vibe.

Sex Panther was freaking awesome! They played everything from Jimi Hendrix to Ozzy Osbourne to AC/DC, without a lick of country music. Thank you, Sex Panther, for saving that first night in Nashville for me!

We stayed until the breaks between songs were getting longer and longer, as the Jack Black lookalike was getting drunker and drunker haha.

Thursday morning, I wanted to go for a run. My right foot, which had been bugging the hell out of me Tuesday, had felt totally fine walking around Wednesday.

Clark agreed to go with me. After breakfast, we bundled up (it was still unseasonably cold that morning) and headed out. 

Nashville is pretty hilly, especially compared to home. It seemed like we were always running uphill or downhill, rarely on a flat surface. We ran to Centennial Park, in midtown, the site of the city’s centennial celebration in 1897. One of the big attractions at that celebration was a plaster full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. After the celebration wrapped up, everyone wanted to keep the Parthenon because they felt like it made Nashville the “Athens of the South” or something.

However, the thing had been built to be temporary, and soon the plaster started falling off in chunks, so in 1920, they built a new full-scale Parthenon out of concrete.

I doubt I’ll ever go to Greece, so it was kind of cool to see a Parthenon, even if it wasn’t the Parthenon.

Clark on the steps in front of the Parthenon.

Clark on the steps in front of the Parthenon.

When we got back to the hotel, we’d covered 4.2 miles, and my foot still felt good!

Our hotel was really close to Music Row, a section of town that was lined with all the big recording companies’ offices. That afternoon, we walked by RCA Studio B, where a lot of huge hits were recorded:

Clark read you could still see the spot on the side of the building where Dolly Parton ran her car into it, but we couldn't find it.

Clark read you could still see the spot on the side of the building where Dolly Parton ran her car into it, but we couldn’t find it.

We had lunch at The Red Door Saloon, where we took full advantage of the beer selection, and then went to a place called the Patterson House. You walk into a normal-looking house, a hostess pulls back a curtain and there’s a bar that’s supposed to look like a prohibition-era speak-easy.

They specialized in very intricate cocktails that were as much fun to watch being made as they were to drink. We tried several from the list, and also got a couple of appetizers, some kind of tater tots and truffle deviled eggs:

patterson house

When we left the Patterson House, we figured we’d take a nap at the hotel and head back downtown. Well, we took a nap alright, but this time we slept right through Clark’s phone alarm, and didn’t wake up until almost 2 a.m. haha. So we stayed put that night.

Friday, I felt like going for a run again in the morning. It was finally starting to warm up to more seasonable temperatures. After breakfast, I ran downtown and along the riverfront. This is the only picture I took of Broadway, from the riverfront. It looks a lot dingier and, well, sadder in daylight. I never thought to take a picture of it when it was all lit up and full of people at night.

broadway

 

When I got back to the hotel, I’d covered 5.1 miles, and, according to the running app I’d used on my phone to track it, gained 532 feet in elevation, which is a lot for a flatlander like myself. By that afternoon, I could really feel all the hill climbing and descending in my shins.

After I got back from my run, Clark and I walked to the Pancake Pantry. Apparently it’s a pretty big deal. It was noon on a rainy November weekday, and there was still a line out the door waiting to get in:

panckaes

 

We both got the sweet potato pancakes, which were served with powdered sugar and a cinnamon cream syrup. They were probably the best pancakes I’ve ever had. They disappeared too quickly for me to get their picture.

We walked back to the hotel in the rain, and took yet another food-induced nap. In the evening, we went back downtown.

The place was absolutely packed for Justin Timberlake’s concert at a big arena in the middle of downtown. The first three restaurants we tried for dinner had waits of 90 minutes to two hours. We finally fought our way through the crowds and put our name in for a table at this trendy little gastropub, where the wait was only an hour, and then walked down to a karaoke bar to get an appetizer and have a couple of beers before dinner.

I had to endure a couple of country songs at this place, but for the most part, the karaoke singers were sticking with pop.

We got back to the gastropub just as our names were being called, and they seated us upstairs on the roof (it had warmed up enough since Wednesday to sit outside.) I had rainbow trout, kale and quinoa, which was really good, and some of Clark’s roasted brussels sprouts.

After dinner, we struck out again in search of that elusive non-country live act. We squeezed ourselves into a place called Whiskey Bent when the band was playing Steve Miller, but not long after we sat down, a new act came on and started playing country. Peace out, Whiskey Bent.

I can’t remember the name of the next place we found, but we wound up staying there the rest of the night. The band wasn’t as entertaining as Sex Panther had been, but they stayed away from country crap, which was all I asked.

Saturday, I woke up a little hungover and not wanting to run. After breakfast, we checked out, loaded up the rental car and drove straight to Memphis, about a three-hour drive.

There were no NFL games or huge music acts in town in Memphis, so we stayed at a Holiday Inn right in the middle of downtown. After checking in, our first stop was Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, world-famous for their dry-rubbed pork ribs. We each got a slab with beans and coleslaw. They were amazing, probably the best thing I ate the whole trip. Clark plowed through his entire rack without coming up for air haha. When he was done, he looked up with this dazed expression and said, “I just couldn’t stop eating!”

We were right across the street from the historic Peabody Hotel, so around 4:15 p.m., we went over to get a drink and a spot to watch the daily duck march.

The Peabody has a huge fountain in the lobby. There’s a tradition that dates back to the ’30s, involving five ducks that live in the fountain during the day, and then in their own little duck house in the hotel at night. At 11 a.m. every day, they ride the elevator down to the lobby and are herded down a red carpet by the Duck Master to the fountain. At 5 p.m., they are herded back down the red carpet to the elevator to go home.

I couldn’t believe how many people packed into that lobby and on the balconies above it to see these ducks walk down a carpet! I took a video of the march, but this is the only picture of the ducks I got, while they were still in the fountain:

peabody ducks

 

After the ducks came through, we walked over to Beale Street, another strip of bars known for live music. In Memphis, it’s the blues.

Remembered to take a picture of this street at night.

Remembered to take a picture of this street at night.

They close the street to traffic, so people can just walk wherever. This was also the only place I’ve been, other than Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where alcohol was served in to-go cups:

drinks to go

Before we went to a bar, Clark wanted to go to the Gibson store, where he did a little drooling over Les Paul Standards:

clark guitars

And I found this:

ACDC

I bet “Back in Black” sounds pretty hardcore on a ukelele!

We went back to Beale Street and watched a live blues band until their set ended. We were hungry again, so we went to another little gastropub, South of Beale. I think every hipster in Memphis was gathered there that night. There was ironic facial hair, glasses with no lenses and men in skinny jeans as far as the eye could see. The pumpkin beer was served with cinnamon and brown sugar on the rim and the seared scallops were really good though.

The restaurant wasn’t far from downtown, but it was already in a pretty rundown area, compared to downtown. We found that was the case no matter which direction we walked — downtown felt very modern and vibrant, but you were only a couple of blocks away from huge, abandoned buildings and long-forgotten businesses.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel for another power nap that, in my case, turned into just going to sleep for the night again. Clark said he tried to wake me up to go back to Beale Street, but I wasn’t having it. I don’t remember that.

Sunday morning, I wanted to go for a run, but it was supposed to rain at any moment, I hadn’t brought a running hat to keep it out of my eyes and, most importantly, I didn’t feel like looking for a running route. So I copped out and went to the hotel fitness room. It was just a muggy little room with a set of dumbbells, a weight bench, two treadmills, an elliptical and a stationary bike — all facing the mirror on the back wall instead of the TV on the front wall. Technically, I was supposed to do 10 miles, my first long run of marathon training, but I knew I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting through that on a treadmill.

I did some ab exercises and then fired up the treadmill, setting it to an 8:00/mile pace so I could at least say whatever I ran was at marathon goal pace. I was already sick of the treadmill after a mile, and almost turned it off at 1.5. I forced myself to at least get through a 5K before I finally let myself off the hook. That was the worst 25 minutes of the whole trip. I can’t stand running on treadmills!

After my “long” run (which was really the shortest of the whole trip), Clark and I went to a restaurant for brunch, where I got some eggs Benedict with crab cakes that were pretty good.

We walked down to Sun Studio, about a mile from the hotel, where artists like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash got their start.

sun studio

 

The smaller building, on the left, was the original Sun Studio, which first opened as Memphis Recording Service. Eventually the studio outgrew it and moved out. When it moved back, it acquired the building on the right for more space.

The smaller building, on the left, was the original Sun Studio, which first opened as Memphis Recording Service. Eventually the studio outgrew it and moved out. When it moved back, it acquired the building on the right for more space. (The picture above was taken from about where that person in the black shirt is standing to the right.)

We took a guided tour that started in a little exhibit that featured things like the first recording equipment from when the studio first opened as a recording service in the early ’50s, and Elvis’s social security card. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but clearly some people on the tour were, as I saw a few wiping their eyes. I’d be doing the same thing if I was touring a Bobby Labonte museum, so go ahead, Elvis fans. You do you. No judgment here!

Then we were led to the recording studio itself. Even though the original space was rented out by a few different businesses after Sun Studio moved out for a while when it outgrew it, including a barber shop and a scuba/surf equipment supplier, no one had ever remodeled it, and the original acoustic tiles still hung on the ceiling and the original laminate was still on the floor. 

The recording studio.

The recording studio.

There was an ‘X’ on the floor where supposedly Elvis stood while he recorded his very first single in 1954, and they had a mic from the ’50s that the studio’s founder, Sam Phillips, swore Elvis himself had sung into. When the tour was wrapped up, we could pose with the mic.

That 'X' on the floor near my foot is where Elvis once stood.

That ‘X’ on the floor near my foot is where Elvis once stood.

In the afternoon, we went to the National Civil Rights Museum, located in part of the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony outside Room 306. That piece of the hotel has been preserved, and is attached to the rest of the building that now houses the museum:

National Civil Rights Museum

Closer to the balcony where he was killed by a gunshot from a second-story bathroom window in a boarding house across the street.

Closer to the balcony where he was killed by a gunshot from a second-story bathroom window in a boarding house across the street.

There’s also a protest that’s been going on outside the motel for nearly 26 years now. The sole protester, Jaqueline Smith, was the last tenant of the motel. She lived there from 1973, when she worked at the motel as a housekeeper, to March 1988, when she was evicted so the motel could be turned into the museum. She is protesting both the development of the area surrounding the motel to a point where it is pricing out the low-income people who predominately lived there, and the “Disney-style” tone of the museum itself. She thinks the former motel could be put to better use, and that Dr. King wouldn’t have wanted all that money spent on a building in his honor anyway.

She wasn’t there when we visited, but her signs still were:

MLK protester

 

Much of the exhibits in the rest of the museum were under renovation, so we didn’t go in.

It was late afternoon by that point, so we looked for a bar that was showing the NASCAR race. There was a slim chance the championship would go to anyone other than Jimmie stupid Johnson, but I just had to watch, just in case.

We finally found one, The Kooky Canuck, that had a bartender who didn’t give us a weird look when we asked him to change one of the nine TVs from one of the two NFL games to the race. I had a depressing side-by-side view of both the Ravens’ loss in OT to the Bears and the jerk’s sixth championship:

Not one of my better sports days.

Not one of my better sports days.

There was a shift change in the middle of this, and right as Johnson started celebrating his stupid championship after the crossing the finish line, the new bartender changed the TV back to the same damn football game that was on three more TVs within sight of the moron sitting next to Clark, who couldn’t let us have one TV for the race and requested it be changed to football. Not that I wanted to watch that celebration, but come on!

We’d paid our tab anyway, so we left and went to The Flying Saucer down the street. There’s one in Charlotte, and we always liked it because they have such a huge selection of beers on tap.

We stayed there a while, and then went back to the hotel for another “power nap” that turned into — you guessed it — me falling asleep for good for the night. Sigh. Clark went back to Beale Street without me. Once again, the next morning, I didn’t remember him waking me up, and I also didn’t remember him leaving or coming back. I was done for the night.

Monday was our last day in Tennessee. We had breakfast at this little cafe, and then walked down by the Mississippi River. After we checked out of the hotel, we went to Graceland. On the way, we took a detour into Arkansas, just across the river, just so I could say I’d been there.

Again, I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but it just seemed wrong to go to Memphis and not see Graceland. It’s not too far from downtown, so why not?

Our tickets got us a tour of the house itself, as well as several exhibits set up across the highway from the house. A shuttle took us from that exhibit area to the house:

Graceland.

Graceland.

We were all given individual audio players with headsets for the tour, which was a great idea because you got to move along at your own pace, instead of with a group, and you could listen to only as much information as you wanted.

It started inside the house. We got to see all the downstairs rooms, including the living room, his parents’ bedroom (Elvis was very close to his parents, especially his mother), the dining room, the basement, the kitchen and the “jungle room.”

The living room.

The living room.

My favorite room in the house, the "professionally decorated" basement room, with three TVs. Elvis wanted those when he heard one of the presidents had three TVs so he could watch all three network evening newscasts at the same time.

My favorite room in the house, the “professionally decorated” basement room, with three TVs. Elvis wanted those when he heard one of the presidents had three TVs so he could watch all three network evening newscasts at the same time.

The "jungle room." That round chair on the right was said to be a favorite of Lisa Marie, Elvis's daughter.

The “jungle room.” That round chair on the right was said to be a favorite of Lisa Marie, Elvis’s daughter.

Outside the house, we saw a shed that was converted into an office, one of whose functions was to handle and sort all the fan mail Elvis received. There was another building that had been built just to showcase awards Elvis won for his music, gold and platinum records and other artifacts, including some of his performance costumes, movie costumes, a huge plaque honoring some of the charitable causes to which he regularly donated a ton of money, and even the tux and dress he and his wife, Priscilla, wore when they were married.

A room full of gold and platinum records to honor sales milestones. These weren't anywhere close to all of them.

A room full of gold and platinum records to honor sales milestones. These weren’t anywhere close to all of them.

There was another building that had been a racquetball court and hangout when Elvis lived there, but had partially been converted into yet another room featuring gold and platinum albums. There were also several of his jumpsuits on display, and a TV showing his 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” concert, which was shown on TV and watched by more people than the moon landing four years earlier.

graceland jumpsuits

 

The last stop outside the house itself was the meditation garden, where Elvis, his parents and his grandmother are all buried. There’s also a marker for his twin brother, who was stillborn, but was actually buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery in their hometown of Tupelo, Miss., about 90 miles south of Memphis.

Left to right are Elvis's grandmother, Elvis, his dad, his mom and his brother.

Left to right are Elvis’s grandmother (who outlived them all), Elvis, his mom, his dad and his brother.

elvis grave

The shuttle took us back across the street to the rest of the exhibits, which included his personal car collection, his two personal planes and an exhibit about his early life in Tupelo.

I couldn’t get over all the gift shops though! You had to walk through a different one to get out of any exhibit. I bet Clark and I were among a very small minority of visitors who managed to leave without buying anything.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Graceland, and I’m glad I went. I’ve never known much about Elvis. He died six years before I was born, and I didn’t have anyone growing up who exposed me to his music, like my family practically spoon-fed me the Beatles’ entire catalogue. He always seemed almost like a caricature to me; I only knew him for those white jumpsuits and “Thank you; thank you very much.” I have more of an appreciation for Elvis now. He came from nothing, but had a true gift. He was also a real person who loved his family, loved his hometown and had deplorable taste when it came to home decorating. (Kidding! It was the ’70s. Graceland probably looked pretty swanky back then haha. Elvis fans, please don’t kill me.)

When we left Graceland, we drove a little farther south so I could also say I’d been to Mississippi, and then we drove back to Nashville for one last night before our flight Tuesday morning.

Clark had gotten the cheapest room he could find, at an Extended Stay America. Holy crap, do you get what you pay for! The room was “non-smoking,” but had definitely been inhabited by a smoker, for quite some time. It didn’t look like the cleaning staff had made any attempt to clean it either, judging by all the leaves on the floor and the pile of actual trash in the bathroom:

Can you see the sign about how they're so committed to being clean, and the balled up paper towel and straw in the floor directly beneath it?

Can you see the sign about how they’re so committed to being clean, and the balled up paper towel and straw in the floor directly beneath it?

We spent our last evening in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort hotel. I had no idea this place had multiple enormous indoor gardens, all connected by walkways. The place was also decorated for Christmas:

Huge tree in one of the gardens.

Huge tree in one of the gardens.

There were also several nice restaurants throughout the hotel. We ate a Mexican place that had a big buffet. You could make your own fajitas, or eat the prepared enchiladas or burritos. My favorite was a burrito with brisket and goat cheese. There was also a cold shrimp cocktail that was pretty amazing, and a big selection of cheesecakes for dessert. I definitely ate my money’s worth at that buffet! It was all really good.

Back at the hotel, we stayed up late watching TV and then woke up long before the alarm went off the next morning — the place was that gross, we just couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

The flight back was just as smooth, and we got home around 2:30 p.m. Pepper was so excited to see us he wouldn’t stand still, except to pee on the carpet — twice. Smooth!

As soon as I’d unpacked, I changed clothes and went out for a run. I had five easy miles on the schedule. I did the 5.5-mile loop, and in spite of the wind and all the junk I’d eaten and beer I’d downed over the last week, they actually felt easy! It was a really good run.

Yesterday was also the third anniversary of when we brought Pepper home. I got this picture of him and Clark on the couch:

Awwww!

Awwww!

This morning, I did strength training upstairs — ab exercises, push-ups, invisible chair-sitting and weights — and then I took Pepper out for another easy 3-miler.

My foot feels the best it’s felt in weeks, and I’m really optimistic it’s ready to start marathon training for real now. Tomorrow is my first speed workout of the cycle, a 30-minute tempo run.

 

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