Carving Slayer Into My Life

Reign-in-BloodI turned 13 in 1986, the year that Slayer’s classic album “Reign In Blood” was released.  I remember thumbing through cassettes at Uncle John’s Records in Sioux City,  meeting what would ultimately be one of the most influential and loved albums in my life for the first time.  Staring up at me was a simple “Slayer – Reign In Blood” beckoning for my hand to reach forth.  As I lifted it from its cassette limbo, I turned the case to see the wicked Larry Carroll illustration of demons, blood, and other evil figures all residing in a hellish tomb.  The story goes that guitarist Kerry King* hated the cover originally, saying it was “not very metal” in a 1987 interview, but later had the realization that the cover had in fact redefined metal album covers to an extent.  That moment I instantly fell in love.

As a young boy I was exposed to some of the darker classical composers such as Chopin and Holst through my grandmother. I had also been raised by my Mother on Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, and Queen, who all had their darker sides, and as a mentally troubled youth all of this kind of kept me on an even keel.  The darker, heavier, or faster (or much slower), the better. Since elementary school I had been buying my own tapes, choosing Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, and early Def Leppard, then Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Ozzy, and writing this I realize I probably should have ended up with a mullet and a Camaro. I had picked up Anthrax’s “Spreading The Disease,” Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” and Megadeth’s “Killing Is My Business” some months before seeing Reign in Blood in that store rack, and those albums were mind blowing, even for someone who searched out the most “extreme” music he could get in small town Iowa as a kid (some would say my love of Frank Zappa and Weird Al were also very extreme, but those will be written about another day).

The first time my ear drums were punished with the opening to “Angel Of Death.” all those albums just fell to the wayside.  It was just RAW AS FUCK, I had heard nothing even close to this ever in all my music searching.  It exploded out of the gate like a thousand nuclear hell hounds, each clawing and shredding at my brain, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman holding the riff leashes of those hounds and guiding them towards my destruction.  Then came that famous scream from Tom Araya, possibly the most famous scream in all of metal. The speed, the riffs, the reckless, atonal solos, just a total cacophony, and the blasting drums of Dave Lombardo, it was almost too much.  I remember well the mile-wide smile that cracked the surface of my oily pubescent face.  THIS is what I had been waiting for.

Then came the fifth track, Jesus Saves. The opening riff to this beast will forever send a shiver through my body.  Here I was, all jacked up on speed metal riffing and blasting drums, then comes this monolithic pedal tone riff.  It was, and still is, crushing.  It’s like a half time break in the middle of armageddon, picking up to a solid mid-paced thrashing. That opening riff, I will forever bust that riff out while soundchecking, testing microphone placement, or just hanging out being an ass at a guitar store.  It has been melted into my mind.

The rest of the album is a ripper, ending with “Raining Blood,” Slayer’s calling card song, but that opening riff from “Jesus Saves” will always be my favorite piece from this album of iconic riffing.  It’s really tough to pick from an album that is literally just end to end golden, blood soaked riffs, but it’s the one that still stirs me from within.

Reign In Blood busted open the flood gates of speed metal for me, after my first listen I needed more.  Morbid Angel, Halloween, Mercyful Fate, Napalm Death, Carcass, Kreator, Fate’s Warning, Overkill, and Coroner all followed closely behind, if it was fast, or intricate, or bombastic, I was in. I’m still in to this very day. If you have a moment, cue up track 5 on your copy of Reign In Blood, max out your volume, and fire it up.

Sam

CNB

This was the first of a series of articles about the music that has guided my life, I hope you enjoy the meandering recollections.  

*the same guy who covered himself in ridiculous “tribal” tattoos, then used them as his brand’s calling card. Yeah, also not very metal.

A Few Of My Faves

CNB Bike Related Favorites Listing:

  1. Sarah Cooper – “Coop” is a local central Iowa endurance cycling beast. She has been on the “podium” of many of the midwest’s nastiest endurance races, and last year she flat out won Race Across The West, which qualified her for even more punishment in this year’s RAAM.  She won the Women’s Solo category in RAAM last month riding 3,070.28 miles in 11 days, 18 hours and 56 minutes, which also put her in 10th overall among these elite racers.  I will hopefully get to talk with her about her experience sometime soon and transcribe that here. Click on her name up there and read about it all from her own words.  Also, she put on a little thing called the Spotted Horse Ultra, a punishing 150 or 200 mile gravel race in central Iowa. (Sarah if you are reading this, I’m sorry I missed the party, work got a little crazy.)
  2. RidingGravel.com – It’s got the goods, and they know their stuff. Click the link and learn a few things.
  3. BikePacking.com – Have you ever had a question about Bikepacking (DirtBagging)? These folks probably have the answer. A wealth of knowledge for all you who like your touring dirty, or all of those who aspire, it’s worth a click.
  4. Compass Snoqualmie Pass Tires – These 700cx44mm tan-wall beauties are the big sibling in the “pass” line. Mine are in the ulra supple “extra light casing” model, and ride so nice I’d like to put these on pretty much any of my bikes that would fit them. Highly recommended.
  5. J-Paks GravelPak – It’s the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of seat packs.  This Pak is the ultimate seat pack for long day rides, packing wet weather gear on your commuter, or keeping your “ride kit*” handy in an easily transferrable package. This thing has lived on many of my bikes over the last 10 months.
  6. Pink (the color) – I’m way into pink right now. There’s Project Pink, and it was reaaaaaally difficult to avoid trying to put pink ano everything on this beauty. If you have pink ano parts for sale, let me know. I’m starting to horde them for a rebuild of one of my current bikes.
  7. TAN WALLS TIL SNOW FALLS – That’s my new mantra.  The Compass line of tires has nothing but tan wall goodness, and the WTB Byway set waiting to go on Pink are a lovely tan wall. Maxxis, Panaracer, and many more can provide you with those lovely walls of tan. Tan is the new Black.
  8. Speed Metal Cycling Podcast – This is the only way I like to experience the thrills and chills of professional road racing, through the hilarious insight of Dan Skullcrusher, Klaus, Natalia, and Mike.  It’s amazing how a few huge doping scandals soiled this sport for me for life.  I remember getting the Tour De France special editions of the bike magazines when I was a kid, seeing these heroic young (and some old) men just destroy themselves in the name of winning “just a bike race.” Decades later we all find out they were also destroying themselves with performance enhancing drugs.  It’s a shame that road racing was just a sham the whole time. I’m totally in to not watching the Tour, but listening to these lovely creatures discuss the tour is awe inspiring. They also have a Name That Colombian page that coaches you on how to properly pronounce the names of Colombian racers. Very helpful.
  9. Dirt Bagging > Bike Packing – Tomato/Potato situation.
  10. Trans Iowa 14 – NO, this hasn’t been announced, and I half expect that TIV13 may have been the last year, but I’m sure GT will be reading this and I want him to know at least ONE person is thinking about what to do with his fall/spring “free time.”

Sam

CNB

*tools, tubes, air, rain gear, lock, burrito, whatever you take with you on the reg.

Less Breathless

As the tens of you who have been reading along here know, I have recently hit a brick wall with my health.  I had been eating like a huge asshole, and I do mean huge, to the point where not even riding was helping out. I was the heaviest that I’ve even been in my life, a full 70 lbs more than when I was in “racing shape,” and I felt it.  My joints ached, my hips were really unhappy on long rides, I would get out of breath putting on my cycling shoes, and I realized I had been lying to myself about what was going on with my health.  It was time for a change.

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I’ve gone from milkshakes to smoothies.

This week I have hit another milestone. I put my Sidis on without having to gasp for air. This may not seem like something to brag about, but in my 18″ of space it is a reason to celebrate.  When I weighed in yesterday, I had gone from 302.8 to 288.2 lbs in one week. There was a full week prior to my initial weigh in that was undocumented, I would say that based on losing 14+ in the past week, my actual weight at the start was closer to 310-315 lbs. (my poor wheels). I’ve dropped about my first 20, and I am already feeling great. My shirts are fitting better, my mood is better, and I don’t feel as sluggish on the bike. I’m excited, as the weight loss has been from simply changing my diet and getting adjusted to eating Vegan again. I haven’t joined a gym, I have actually been riding less due to being fairly busy, I simply cut out meat, dairy, cheese, etc. This wasn’t an abrupt change, I had been planning this and purging my pantry and fridge for two months, and I have spent a few years eating Vegan in the past, so the groundwork was laid.  I just needed motivation like failing at a bike race that by all means I should have been able to finish.

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Tofu Scramble, Spinach, Tater Crowns, Home Made Vegan Biscuits w/Fig Preserves. Breakfast of Champions.

The Stoker is pleased that I’ve decided to actually look out for my health instead of plowing through life expecting things to just be ok, even though things were most decidedly NOT ok. We are looking forward to a summer of cycling, I’ve decided to cut back my “race” schedule a bit and focus on using 2017 as a recovery year from the past few years of just letting myself go.  It’s time to rebuild, have fun, and get things going the right direction again.

Sam, CNB

Discovering The Root Problem

Warning: This is going to get a little personal.

I recently decided to make a return to the realm of Veganism. I spent a good chunk of my 30’s living meat free, but after returning to eating meat  I’ve spent the first few years of my 40’s as a chunk. Dining without restraint for the last few years has been quite an adventure. I’ve eaten the best of the best and the best of the worst from coast to coast, it was an incredible journey which culminated in me starting a Fried Chicken Blog and feeling like shit. I’ve failed miserably at races and rides, have problems being on my feet for more than a few hours, get out of breath easily, and it was pointed out by the Stoker last night that I have felt like shit after almost every meal we have had together as of late.  She told me to go to the damn doctor, and to maybe put the batteries back in my scale and weigh in to see where I was at.  I started with the scale thing yesterday.  Whoa. I was shocked at what I saw.

Health problems are no stranger in my profession, where there is a high rate of alcoholism/addiction, mental health problems, suicide, and a generally unhealthy regimen to eating.  Our time is short, stress is high. Meals are eaten at odd hours, lots of inadvertent binge eating happens, fast food rules the roost, we have to taste product (those calories add up), and when you dine out you fucking DINE OUT.  It’s awesome, the food, the fun, the networking over beers and whatever, it’s hard to trade those experiences away.  BUT there is a point when your body has had enough, and here I was standing on a scale looking directly at the first solid proof that my body has had enough.

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Damn, Homie.

I’m not a small person to begin with, but this is absurd. My normal “operating” weight has been around 270 +/-10lbs the last few years, and in my Vegan days it was around 225, which is more in line with what I should weigh.  All those years of unfettered food shoveling has finally come to a head. I broke 300lbs. Goddamn. Now I have a good idea why my climbing has been so bad this year, why my endurance has been down considerably even with training and getting miles in during the winter.  My joints have been aching, my clothes don’t fit, exhaustion has been setting in after just a little time being active, I get out of breath tying my shoes. It’s been a rough state of affairs, and this number tells me that the changes I’ve instituted in my life are needed now more than ever. I’m the embodiment of the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.” BUT I AM AN ACTIVE CYCLIST, WHAT GIVES?

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Chunkier than the gravel, it’s me on CIRREM this year.

I can’t even imagine where I’d be without cycling. It would seem safe to assume that I would be fatter, sicker, and even more near death. Maybe I would be at 350? 400? More? I can’t.  I will say that the last week of plant based eating has me more energetic, positive, and mobile than I have been in a long while, but there is a long way to go before I am out of the health woods.  I’m still planning on doing my best to keep to my race and ride plan for this year, but my doctor has final say in this matter.  I’m still going to keep plugging away at “training” and I’ve accepted that the next few spring races are going to be really difficult to complete (TIV13 will be impossible, but that’s what it is anyway), and that I may have to spend more time riding shorter rides until I get back to multiple century shape.  One of my goals for 2018 was to ride the entire Trans-America Route, and I joked about being the fattest person to finish that Route in under 45 days.  That will probably push back to 2020, and I had better not be the fattest at that point.

This isn’t about a number. I’m not just bitching about my weight, this is a statement that I’m making a change for overall fitness. This is also a warning that you are probably going to have some opportunities to read about this portion of my life journey in the future.  I have family and friends that would probably like to have me around for more than a few more years. I’ve got BIKES TO RIDE DAMMIT, and so much more life to live, adventures to uh…adventure.  I’ve discovered the root of the problem, a root to which I’ve been turning a blind eye, and it’s time to choose life over just living. There’s a difference.

Sam, CNB