A lot has happened over the past few weeks. I completed my second-ever Olympic-distance triathlon, I made what is apparently now an annual trip to Six Flags Great Adventure with my son Graham, and I lost one of my musical heroes with the passing of legendary South African singer-songwriter and activist Johnny Clegg.
Read on to find out what’s been going on since June…
I completed my second-ever Olympic-distance triathlon when I finished the 2019 Atlantic City Triathlon—Tri AC, for short—in 3:07:32. This event consisted of a 1-mile swim (sort of), a 22.5-mile bike ride and a 10K (6.2-mile) run.
My transition times are still terrible and my 10K run was a putrid 1:12:15. My bike ride was right where I expected at 1:15:14.
The shocker was my 28:43 swim time. I had never completed a 1-mile, open-water swim in anything less than 48-52 minutes. As it turns out, I still haven’t. There hasn’t been an official comment yet from the race organizer, but they did post a cryptic social media post about making mistakes accompanied by a photo of the swim course. GPS data posted by swimmers in an IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City Facebook group suggests the swim was between 450-500 yards short. I’m going to estimate the course was about 1,270 yards, about 490 yards short of a mile. That means it was closer to a .72-mile course. That still does not negate the fact that I personally killed the swim, relatively speaking. I still swam 44.2 yards every minute, which—at that pace—translates to a mile swim in about 39:49. Also, at that pace, I would finish a quarter-mile swim in a hair under 10 minutes, and I have never finished a 1/4-mile sprint triathlon swim in less than 10:17. So, yeah, my swim time may have been skewed by the short course, but it was still a personal-record swim as far as I’m concerned.
If I had a little more time to get in longer bike-to-run training sessions, my run—and likely my second transition time—would have been much better. But it is what it is.
So now my whole “never doing an IRONMAN 70.3” mindset has been shaken a bit. Despite the short course, I felt strong throughout my entire swim and now I feel as if 1.2 miles isn’t quite as daunting anymore. But I’d definitely need a new bike before riding 56 miles. My three-decades-old Schwinn isn’t going to cut it for that. So, right now, I’m looking at possibly doing a 70.3 in 2021. It will be a nice way to usher in my 50s.
Return to Six Flags Great Adventure
Graham and I spent Tuesday, July 16, at Six Flags Great Adventure. It was the second year in a row we’ve gone there after Graham received a free ticket through a school reading program. He did well at the park last year and thought he would be up for more roller coasters this time around. I did manage to get him onto the Runaway Mine Train again, but it was a struggle and he didn’t want to go on any of the other coasters he’s tall enough to ride on yet. Hopefully, by next year, he’ll physically meet the requirements and be up to going on some of the other coasters like Batman The Ride, Superman: Ultimate Flight and, my favorite there, Nitro.
RIP, Johnny Clegg (1953-2019)
Since we had been at Great Adventure all day on July 16, it wasn’t until a few hours after the news broke that I finally heard the sad news that one of my heroes, legendary South African singer-songwriter-activist Johnny Clegg, had died that day.
My fandom began when I saw the music video for Johnny Clegg & Savuka’s “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World” on MTV back in 1989. Over the years, I would find Clegg’s newer work and venture into the older bits of his catalog when visiting record stores. With the advent of digital music and streaming, finding his music became a lot easier.
I was fortunate enough to see Clegg perform three times since 2014, including his fall 2017 “Final Journey” show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa. Clegg had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, but was continuing to write, record and tour around treatments and recovery. He knew he didn’t have much time left so he wanted to do a farewell tour and release a final album before spending time with his family and getting his affairs in order during his remaining days. Fortunately, Alison was able to come with me to that “Final Journey” show at the Keswick and enjoy the amazing experience of a Johnny Clegg show, which—since he had been a professor of anthropology and an anti-apartheid activist—was basically a music concert/college lecture hybrid.
I had always thought of recording a cover of Clegg’s “The Crossing (Osiyeza),” but the verses are in Zulu. My confidence in singing Zulu was not high, but upon his passing, I figured I would give it a go as my own little tribute to an absolute giant. The Zulu still isn’t perfect, but I hope I’m forgiven.
Here is the original studio version, which features Eric Bazilian of The Hooters on mandolin. It was written as a tribute to Clegg’s longtime collaborator and dance partner Dudu Zulu, who was murdered in 1992 in his hometown of Esiphongweni.
Here is a cover recorded in 2018 as a tribute to Johnny Clegg and benefit for educational and literacy programs in South Africa. The Friends of Johnny Clegg include his son Jesse (the one who walks in at the start and takes position in the center of the room), Dave Matthews (third line of second verse), Mike Rutherford of Genesis (guitar solo in the bridge), and Peter Gabriel (bridge vocals). I didn’t see this until the night of Clegg’s passing and the unexpected joy of seeing ex-Genesis bandmates Rutherford and Gabriel—even though they obviously recorded their parts elsewhere and separately—collaborating on the same project made me even more emotional as I watched this.
Clegg’s final album, 2017’s King of Time, features “I’ve Been Looking,” a song written by his son Jesse and their only recorded duet together. As far as my fandom was concerned, this brought everything full circle, as “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World” was written for Jesse when he was just about a year old. I’m so happy I had the chance to see Johnny and Jesse perform this together.
If you don’t know about Johnny Clegg, please read up on him and the impact he had on South Africa. I’ll end this little tribute with this video of a 1999 performance of his tribute to Nelson Mandela, “Asimbonanga,” in which Mandela dances onto the stage to join Clegg and his band.
Farewell, Johnny. We’ll do our best to carry on your legacy.
If you want to read more about Johnny Clegg, I also wrote a tribute to him on my Tandem With The Random blog.
A day at the XPoNential Music Festival
We made our annual trip to WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park on the waterfront in Camden, N.J. Despite waiting in a ridiculously long line to enter the festival area, we managed to get to our spot near the mainstage area in time for up-and-coming Philly-area rocker Ali Awan.
I wasn’t all that interested in seeing Y La Bamba‘s set on the Marina Stage, but I did enjoy seeing them play their catchy song “Cuatro Crazy,” which WXPN has been playing a lot.
Alison and I were really excited to see Caroline Rose, whose “Jeannie Becomes a Mom” and “Soul No. 5” were all over WXPN in 2018. And she did not disappoint, putting on a super-fun show in which she ended the first song with a leg kick that resulted in her footwear nearly decapitating her drummer. Epic!
I was really excited to see J.S. Ondara, who moved from his native Kenya to Minnesota nearly six years ago with a dream of becoming a musician. At the time, he didn’t even know how to play an instrument. And now he is mesmerizing audiences with his unique sound in support of his debut album, Tales of America.
Now, Philadelphia’s own Low Cut Connie was the band I REALLY wanted to see. I’ve seen LCC on TV and heard the raves about their live performances, but I had never witnessed it for myself. Well, they lived up to the hype. Piano-playing frontman Adam Weiner is a ball of energy on the stage. I didn’t get great video of them, but below these subpar photos is a video I found from YouTube user Craig McAvoy featuring highlights of the day we were at the festival…and they include quite a bit from Low Cut Connie.
New Music Discoveries
Here are some recent music releases I would like to share.
Pure Bathing Culture – “All Night”
Pure Bathing Culture recently did a Free At Noon for WXPN that I couldn’t attend, but I listened to it on radio and loved what I heard. And, gee, there’s an 80s vibe to them, so that’s probably why. Anyway, the Portland-based duo of Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman actually met as students at New Jersey’s William Paterson University. They were dropped by their label after releasing their second album in 2015. “All Night” is the lead track on their long-awaited third album, the recently released Night Pass. I immediately added a lot of the album to my Summer 2019 playlist.
milk. – “Temperature”
“Temperature” is the second track released this year by new Dublin-based pop/rock unit, milk.
I shared their song “Drama Queen” earlier this year. The band is fronted by actor/singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mark McKenna, who appeared as Eamon in one of my all-time favorite films, Sing Street (coming soon to New York Theatre Workshop as a stage musical), and as the title role in YouTube’s critically acclaimed series, Wayne.
Really looking forward to hearing more from them.
2019 Scheduled Races
Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019