Evolution of “The Vanimal”

During my half marathon training, or any distance running for that matter, I always include some cross training to strengthen my legs and the muscles that help me not suck too bad on race day. I had taken on the Gorilla Marathon Master training and that went well, but I had a couple of weeks left and wanted to do something that was a little less intense than the Gorilla plan, and maybe work on the muscle groups that will help me with running posture, rather than strength.

I came up with the following… which I decided to call The Vanimal. My son hates when I call it this, because he feels as though I am sullying the Van name. Ha.

Vanimal 1.0 (repeat 5X)

  1. 1 min plank
  2. 5 mins jog
  3. 10 pull-ups
  4. 20 Russian twists
  5. 25 push-ups
  6. 100 crunches

That worked pretty well, but the crunches were maybe too easy, but not great for my back/neck. I decided to go with some knees to elbows (K2Es) to replace crunches.

Vanimal 2.0 (repeat 5X)

  1. 1 min plank
  2. 5 mins jog
  3. 10 pull-ups
  4. 20 Russian twists
  5. 25 push-ups
  6. 5 K2Es

This was good, but I wanted to remove the jog to give my legs even more rest. The K2Es have been awesome, I’m not sure there is a better workout for abdominals, especially upper abs. I also discovered deep body weight squats (also know by the less PC term third world squats), which would add some flexibility to an area that is really tough to stretch.

Vanimal 3.0 (repeat 5X)

  1. 1 min plank
  2. 1 min DBW squat
  3. 10 pull-ups
  4. 20 Russian twists
  5. 25 push-ups
  6. 5 knees to elbows

At this point, I think I might change out Russian twists for some hanging pikes and possibly change push-ups to burpees. The quantity is yet to be determined, hanging pikes are brutal – not that long ago, I was unable to even do one.

Funny/Interesting Links…

Album Review: Simon Waldram – Insolation

I’ve never met Simon Waldram in person, but when I came across his music on the now-defunct music community, DMusic.com it was refreshing to find a younger artist from Nottinghamshire, UK that felt more kinship to Nick Drake and Syd Barrett than more contemporary artists. Around that 2001-2004, it felt like many musicians had forgotten that music prior to 1990 existed and were too busy picking from the carcasses of post-punk/post-grunge to regurgitate what we had spent the last 15 years listening.

In short, music was boring then, and it was refreshing to hear a kid that found something on his own that resonated with himself. He was raw, but inspired and original. Also, he’s one of those weirdo left-handed guitarists – what a freak.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a tweet from Simon looking for people to review his new release, Insolation. So I reached out and I knew he would never be able to turn down my vast readership of 4 or 5 people.

Insolation is a sprawling mix of 20 tracks that harken comparisons to introspective parts of Joseph Arthur and the more jangly psychedelia moments of Brian Jonestown Massacre. Although rockers like “Alone in Berlin” and “Inside Out” feel honest, I feel as though Simon’s true pocket lies more with expansive songs with space for the notes between to spell the story out for the listener.

The more drone-y songs like Car Glass Window, Nebula, Barely Even Here (which for me had the best guitar playing on Insolation), and Stuck on a Cloud. I found Dandelion with it’s lilting flute and simple lyrics felt familiar, but new. The only track that was a miss for me was Resenah. Other standouts for myself were The Room Overlooking the Park – K’s haunting spoken word over a simple, barely overdriven notes served as a dirge or perhaps a revelation of something terrible. I felt the lo-fi tracks, Lost in the City and En Un Coche really worked well. En Un Coche’s Three Imaginary Boys-era jangliness of The Cure on top of a pawn shop drum machine. The heavy Roger Waters fueled 3am brings the release to a close to an end. The listener gets one last tasty minuet Nebula (reprise).

Insolation connects with the right listener, and even extends out to some other types of musical ears. I miss listening to a lot of my DMusic.com friends’ latest creations, and I’m glad to hear Simon is still creating some compelling music across the pond. You can purchase Insolation from Simon’s Bandcamp page.

Funny/Interesting Links…

that’s my wife, that’s my hero, that’s my Abbe

See that proud lady right there? That’s my wife, Abbe.

In this photo, Abbe is holding up her medical clearance to run the Disney Marathon in January 2012. What you can’t see in this photo is Abbe’s tongue which was badly bitten from having two grand mal seizures 36 hours prior to the marathon.

I had run a half and full marathon on consecutive days that year, completing the Goofy Challenge – I was given three medals after I finished the 26.2 grueling miles. Abbe was supposed to have three medals as well, but after hitting her head during her second seizure the day prior to the half, she was not cleared to run the half. Miraculously, she was cleared by the doctors in the ER to run the full marathon the next day.

People often exclaim, “wow, a half and a full on consecutive days?” And I smile and tell them that what Abbe accomplished was 10 times more difficult than my 39.3 miles.

See that proud lady right there? That’s my hero. That’s my Abbe.

Abbe is now almost two and a half years seizure free. I am running the 2016 Philadelphia Half Marathon in honor of Abbe with Athletes vs. Epilepsy. I am seeking to raise $2311 to provide funding for research for treatments that help seizure disorder patients like Abbe. Please consider a donation if you are able to do so.

Funny/Interesting Links…

The Catch

Well, you knew one was coming… if I haven’t bugged you to watch, please consider spending 3 minutes and 40 seconds learning about why I am training so hard for the 2016 Philly Half Marathon. This video describes one of the scariest seizures Abbe had. One which, I literally caught her before she hit the pavement.

This video has a montage of pictures of what my family might have missed if I lost her that day. The music is me using as many of my pedals as possible (I need to get a new pair of studio headphones, it’s tough to get high gain tones and be able to hear the other tracks). It’s crazy to think about how far we’ve come. I’m so proud of my wife. Whenever I’m having a bad day or don’t feel like going for a training run, all I have to do is look at her beautiful face and there’s my motivation.

If you are able to do so, please consider a donation to Athletes Vs. Epilepsy.

Movie Reviews…

War Dogs – really fun to watch. Jonah Hill is great in this.

ARQ – great concept, but kind of a clusterf*ck of a movie.

Funny/Interesting Links…

Delight is scarcely longer than a letter; Disgust’s a library.

I cannot wait for this presidential election to be done. Watching everyone being so terrible to each other is pretty damn depressing. Prior to this election season, I used to like having both extremes of news channels in my social media news feeds. I want to understand where people are coming from when they have such powerful opinions.

But this election cycle has been outright carnage. In most cases, it’s not the stories themselves, it’s the comments.

The devotees of the respective left and right media channels did their jobs. Dems and Reps are successfully whipped up into angry mobs complete with pitchforks and torches. Fox and CNN/MSNBC barely even have to spin anything any more, they just ring the bell and like clockwork, the Pavlovian response comes from their constituents. You tear each other apart, and ask for seconds.

Think for yourselves, folks. You are all better than this.


Movie Reviews…

Crimson Peak – visually stunning, pretty decent, the storytelling gets slightly clumsy at points, but good.

I am Not a Serial Killer – this was pretty decent. The acting and story were excellent, got a little weird at the end, but I’ll give it a B+ on effort and concept.

Sully – this was very good. It’s nice when a great story receives a great movie.

Funny/Interesting Links…

a thud and a pile of hearts


What was that? I walked to my son’s room yesterday afternoon, the source of the thud. I opened the door and found him in tears.

“What’s up, buddy?”

He was upset after reading his Jags team’s group texts. He misses playing. His teammates are heading up to Connecticut this weekend for their first EJ showcase. Van Jr and I are staying home.

I think after seeing his team play a great game this weekend in their first NJYHL game of the season, it sunk in that he wants to be out there. Van Jr’s days have been spent playing a lot of XBox (too much in my opinion), meals, and doing his exercises to get his leg ready to skate again.

We talked for a while. He needs to change up his daily routine. I explained that I get a little batshit crazy when I stay cooped up in my office too long. We all need to get outside of our air-conditioned electronic cottages to sweat and be human beings.

I pointed out to him that we are going to see Dr. Atanda this coming Monday, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he clears my son to start skating next week. No contact, mind you – just skate with his team. I think that would go a long way to unshrug his shoulders a bit, and I know his teammates would love to see him on the ice, too.

I’m not basing that on anything beyond how well his PT is going, and the activities he is able to do now.

Viv and Abbe have been so great throughout all of this. Abbe is amazing with her ability to enjoy Hurricane Viv and her kinetic, melodious way of bouncing around the house. Her energy is awesome, but sometimes the volume needs to be turned down a notch before coffee, or at the end of a stressful workday.


Viv and Abbe put little Post-It notes with hearts all around the house recently. As I found them (some were hidden), I collected them in a pile on my desk. Whenever life gets a little shitty, I find myself sifting through them unconsciously. I love my girls – they are make the two Vans in the house a lot happier (even if the Van that wears #13 won’t always freely admit it).

Movie Reviews…

The Boy – better than expected. Has the feel of a slow-moving, tense ghost story a lá The Others, but comes crashing down on the viewer with some good jump-scares and action towards the end.

Funny/Interesting Links…