This weekend, I'm going to be among more than 400 cyclists who leave Lynnfield High School very early Sunday morning and ride 28 miles to Stagefort Park in Gloucester to raise money to fight cancer in young people. The weather looks favorable, and it should be a fun time in general. I enjoy participating in events like this, where you get to raise money for a great cause by doing something you like to do anyhow.
As a diabetic, there will be some extra concerns to pop up during the ride, such as the possibility of a big blood sugar drop, so I'll be prepared with some extra snacks, etc. as well as the obligatory water.
One nagging thought however, is that I didn't really prepare as much as I did for this thing compared to last year - although it wasn't as hard as I expected it to be last year. I did at least do the entire length and back of the Danvers bike trail, 17 miles or so, last week, so it's not like I've been sitting around.
And besides, if I start getting too tired out there, I'm going to break out my old MP3 and take a metal break. Seriously. Heavy metal music is definitely not for everyone, but I'm a lifelong fan - and when I bring it to the gym with me, it's like some sort of performance enhancing drug. Who needs steroids and all that other stuff when you've got stuff like Slayer, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, and Devildriver on your MP3? Using an elliptical at Planet Fitness one night while listening to a Swedish Band named Amon Amarth, I got my heart rate up to a point where I wondered if it was possble for it to explode like a hand grenade. I'm also kind of picky about these bands. There's a ton of them out there but I'd say only a couple of dozen really good ones at best.
I first started using music to get myself pumped up for endurance activities back in the late 1980s when I was on the St. John's Prep swim team. I had this little ritual where before every single race I would listen to Iron Maiden's "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" on my Walkman (Talk about dating yourself). The lyrics and tempo are simply perfect if you suddenly need to run or swim in a burst of energy. I just saw Iron Maiden last month with my college roommate Tim, and they still sound great. Alice Cooper opened for them. Those guys are the renaissance men of the metal world. Singer Bruce Dickinson is a world-class fencer and flies planes, ranging from airliners to vintage WWII specimens. Drummer Nicko McBrain, he announced from stage, had recently completed studies making him an expert on the study of tree rings. It takes all types.
Driving to the Ride on Sunday morning, I know that "These Fighting Words" by Devildriver will grace the CD player at some point. So will something by Behemoth, a Polish band whose singer is just recovering from leukemia and who just blew the roof off of the Worcester Palladium at a concert this spring.
My fiancee is a very good sport about my love for metal. She's a classically trained musician who plays violin and one or two other instruments and who loves musical theatre. She's reports liking some of these more technical, non-screaming bands such as Tool (an amazingly talented group of guys), but doesn't listen to this stuff ever on her own and I don't usually play any of it when she's in the room or in the car. Still, a couple of years ago she got me tickets to a Slayer/Megadeth concert and she came up to it with a group of my friends. Now that's love!
And it's not like this is the only stuff I listen to. I'm possibly one of the biggest Johnny Cash fans on Earth, and love classic rock bands and rockabilly music from the 50s. I've seen the Japanese drummers Kodo three times at Symphony Hall and also have a soft spot for Mongolian throat singing (khoomei). In fact, when my fiancee and I first started dating, one of the first places we went was to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven's 9th at Tanglewood. Since then, we've seen some additional programs featuring Beethoven, Mozart and Handel and Hayden. For classical music, I absolutely am crazy about Bach, who I consider to be the first heavy metal musician. (Check out Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, which for some reason on my old college classical music course was in D Minor). Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is the "Dracula's Castle" song, but it's not the one I'm talking about here. However, I've never actually been fortunate enough to see his work performed anywhere.
For what it's worth, I also kind of consider Johnny Cash to be a great uncle or something of heavy metal. One musician from that world, Glen Danzig, even wrote Cash's song "Thirteen" on one of those amazing American Recordings albums he put out in the twilight of his career. A new generation of music fans discovered him when he covered "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails and "Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden under the guidance of legendary producer Rick Rubin. There's even a great book called "The Resurrection of Johnny Cash" that focuses on this time.
So anyhow, I'm looking forward to this ride, even though I'm heading to this weekend with my legs feeling a bit creaky for some reason and definitely without enough sleep from some recent late worknights. That said, I'll finish this thing even if I have to carry my bike on my back to do it.