Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home

I am home.

I am not sure how I feel, or how I am supposed to feel. In fact, I did not feel anything until I pulled into the driveway of my house. There were no emotions as I left my home in Boulder for the last time. There were no emotions as I watched the Rockies shrink and vanish in the rearview. No pain, no sadness, no joy; nothing. Maybe all my emotions were all played out, and I had moved on to simple acceptance. Boulder did not work out. I wanted it to. I wanted it bad. I wanted the mountains. I wanted the altitude. I wanted it. After a while, however, you have to be able to step back and acknowledge the fact that you are banging your head against wall, busting your ass hanging on, waiting for doors to open that simply are not going to. You have to realize that you are retreating into yourself. You have to realize that it is not a good sign when you would much rather talk to your loved ones on the cell phone than ride your bike. You have to realize that you are not happy.

Boulder is an elite place. It is not all tree-hugging, granola-eating hippies. There is a lot of money, a lot of talent, and an air of superiority. It will chew you up and spit you out if you do not have your shit together. I have never been the type to back down from a challenge, and I threw my hat in the ring. I went in with incredible focus, and I gave it a damn good shot. It did not work out.

I am back in Rochester now, and that is where I need to be right now. I have been living in a haze for months now. Some time with my loved ones should bring me back to reality, and to life. Some times you must take one step back to take two steps forward. To move on is to grow.




Saturday, July 30, 2011

Change. It is what it is.

I took a big risk when I moved to Boulder last autumn. I had no job, no friends, and no clue what was going to happen. Most people would not have done this. I had an idea and a dream of how I hoped it would work out. As we all know, however, sometimes things do not turn out how you had envisioned. Oftentimes this provides us with a learning experience. Oftentimes this learning experience is a valuable one. Oftentimes this learning experience hurts.


It has been made clear in the past that in order to thrive, I need to be around my loved ones. Last time I left home (early college), I struggled with being away from them. When I moved back to Rochester, I had the best two years of my life. Obviously, leaving home again to take this chance on Boulder was a prospect that I was excited about, but there was some apprehension there. I know that I have something special that not everybody has. My friends and family are the most supportive people in the world, and each and every success I have is because of them. I have a very defined sense of where home is. I have given it a year here in Boulder, and it has not become home. When I came out here I had an idea of what I hoped it would be like, and what I would accomplish. It has turned out differently than I had hoped.


I knew that I would face challenges while I was out here, and I have. I met every challenge and rose to every occasion. I grew a lot, and always rallied, no matter what the situation. However, for the most part, it has felt like a series of falling into holes and climbing out of them. There have not been too many true highlights. I have been surviving, rather than thriving. I have not been happy, and I cannot try to convince myself otherwise anymore.


I have made the decision to move back to Rochester. Back home. At this point in time, it is the best decision. I moved to Boulder for the training, but honestly I think I can train just as well, if not better, in Rochester. I know that winters are rough, but it is not anything I am not used to (I handled 23 of those winters). You have to be happy in order to progress with your training. I have my support system there, and great training partners that I trust through and through. As my Boulder roommate (who has been an awesome big brother figure to me this whole time) put it, "you do not become fast by living in Boulder, you become fast by working your ass off." At the moment, I honestly think that I can work harder in a situation where I am around my loved ones, where the support is tangible and accessible.


Boulder will always be here. It is indeed a beautiful place and a fantastic location in which to train. Dozens and dozens of elite athletes cannot be wrong. For now, though, at this point in time, it is not the right place. Perhaps in a couple years I may be able to return. For now, in terms of work, training, and general happiness (which should always be priority number one, along with health), I need to be in my city, with my friends and family. I gave this a real honest shot. I gave it a full year. Everyone I have talked to in the last 24 hours has stressed that I should not see this as failure, or capitulation. It is simply something that I tried and it did not work out. I do not see it as a failure, but I am extremely disappointed that my original vision did not become realized. It is over now. I roll on, like I always do. Onto the next chapter. A few weeks after I get home the leaves will be changing, and the fresh, cool air of autumn in Upstate New York will again fill my lungs as I run through the forest. Just like I did in High school. Just like I did in college.


Home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dealing with disappointment

Two and a half weeks ago, I woke up and the first word I said (out loud) was "f*ck." I was three days removed from the most fun week I had experienced in quite a while: Dino camp with my buddy Dylan (a fit bloke). After this huge week of training (with an increase in volume AND intensity---->dangerous), my thoughts were "okay, if I just make sure I do not get sick, I am going to get a huge benefit and fitness boost." I took all the precautions, including eating clean (and a lot), sleeping, and taking it super easy. So when I woke up with a sore throat, I was exceptionally disappointed. Thinking it was just a cold, I put down some breakfast and headed off for work. As the shift went on, I felt undeniably increasingly ill. By the end of it, I was so feverish and had such bad chills that I drove home with the heat on in my car (and it was 90 degrees that day). I made it home and made it to the couch, and that was about all I could accomplish.

The next several days were a bit of a haze, but it did not involve eating or moving. Luckily, with the help of a great friend, visiting (luckily for me) parents, and some powerful western-medicine pharmaceutical products, I started to recover. However, after all was said and done, two weeks had passed without any training whatsoever. With the gradual and conservative approach that I will have to take while returning to training, this illness may have taken as much as 5-6 weeks away from me, when all is said and done. That, for all intents and purposes, is a season-killer.

So now what? Where to go from here? If you know me, you know the answer to that one. I am no stranger to getting my heart broken and losing a season. In the past it has typically been injuries that have derailed my racing. Most people would have thrown in the towel a long time ago, but where there is passion, there can be perseverance. Over the past year I have doubled my weekly running mileage, with only one minor setback (which was a good thing ironically due to the fact that it shed some light on the root cause of the numerous injuries). I never lost my love for the sport and my belief that I could get everything handled, and improve. The fire never went out. It is still burning now, despite this latest bump in the road. When things do not go well, you get them better, and you KEEP F*CKING GOING.

So we look toward next year now, with new lessons learned. After consulting with the V-Beast, and continuing to further my knowledge base, it seems that consistency is the be-all, end-all. Interruptions such as these are the greatest factors in undermining long-term development, much more so than training slightly fewer hours each week. That will be a goal of mine from here: stay healthier.

It is what it is. It will do me no good to lament the loss of what was shaping up to be a good year of racing. It was never really about this year, anyway. It was about one, two, seven etc. years from now. Everything I do now lays the foundation for my success down the road. I intend to get healthy, and start getting fit again. Then I intend to get fitter and fitter and fitter. There are few feelings that compare to that of being able to run across the line and raise your arms. I will get that again soon, I just need to wait a little longer than I would like.

I will leave you with this quotation from Teddy Roosevelt (who was, by all means, a real man). It may be my favorite.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done
them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the
arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Greeley Race Report


This year has been a great departure from the past few years. The pattern I have become accustomed to is to race bikes nearly every weekend starting in March, and switch over to tris starting in May. However, this year found me racing for the first time on June 12th. Much of my reluctance to get out there and race resulted from a lack of confidence due to a lack of quality training. It has been a challenging year (if you have not read this, please do so) and training has not gone optimally. I decided I would look for a smaller race outside of Boulder to test my fitness in a lower pressure situation. I decided the Greeley Sprint Tri would fit the bill.

Going in, I knew this would hurt badly. The swim and bike were shorter than the standard sprint distance, and I figured I would be finishing in a little over 50 minutes. This meant I would be redlining the entire time. I was unsure how this would go, because my training has not really taken me to the higher levels of oxygen debt, and I did not know how good my lactate tolerance would be.


I got to the race venue without a hitch, and got to work setting everything up. Having been racing tris for five years now, everything on race day is second nature to me. I felt like garbage on my warm-up jog, which meant I was in store for a good race (typically the worse I feel warming up, the smoother I feel when the gun goes off). After some delays in the start, and after waiting for the junior and U23 races to go off, we lined up for our TT start (lake was too small to accommodate a mass start). The swim was honestly over before I realized I was swimming. 500 meters is wicked short for a swim. I was somewhat apprehensive about my ability to perform well in the swim, due to the fact that I have only been swimming 2-3 time per week on a good week since the winter time, without too much focused work. However, the swim is the discipline in which I have some "talent" or natural ability, stemming from the f
act that I swam competitively as a kid for a few years. My belief is that if you learn something as child, you never lose it, but if you try to pick it up as an adult, you will never feel natural. Who knows what might have happened if I had stuck with swimming, but I can say with fair confidence I would have gotten to compete at the Division 1 level, if I had chosen to do so. I also would probably have huge swimmer shoulders, which might be cool. It is a truly moot point now. In any case, I had a good swim.

The bike was also uber-short (10 miles). I was no
t a big fan of the course, either. It seemed like the race organizers said "okay, we have 5 miles worth of road, let's make a 10 mile course out of it. There were three of four traffic circle roundabouts, and too many corners and turn-arounds to count. Nothing scrubs speed like having to slow down to nearly a standstill to go around a tight corner with all sorts of sketchy riders around you (why did they send the men off by age, with the oldest guys going first?). In any case, I got through unscathed and managed a decent split despite the technical nature of the course. I benefitted greatly from using a HIGH CADENCE for the first time ever. My buddy Drew would have been so proud of me and my spinning. It was a very un-dino-ish ride.

Then it was time for the run. If you know anything about my history, it is pretty common for me to get into T2 with the lead, only to lose it on the run. For this reason, my sole focus this year has been on improving my run. I have gotten a lot of advice from Chuck, and have been gobbling up any and all books about run training. I have taken a focus
ed yet patient approach to running, and I was unsure just how the first race would go. Well, I came close to setting PR for the 5k, and had the fastest run split on the day. It was a pretty big confidence booster for me, and it indicated that I am on the right track. All I can say is watch out next year, because all my training is planned as part of a long-term approach.
I took the overall win by two minutes or so, which is a big chunk of time for a 50 minute race. Unfortunately, because it was a TT start, I had no idea of my placing when I got to the finish, although I knew I had done well, and suspected I had won. This is the second straight TT-style race that I have won. It is great to have won, but in this format of race, I have not been able to unleash the victory salute. Oh well.

It was certainly a good start to the season. I will not be doing too much racing this year, as I am still in dire straights financially, and would like to continue to focus on the process of training. Next race will be Boulder Peak in three weeks. The A-race this year will be Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens on August 14th. I will be able to stay with my sister in Seattle, and spend some quality time with her. It will be great and I am looking forward to it.

Thank you for your continued support.


P.S.- Congratulations to my college buddy Erin Fortin on completing her first triathlon. She had a blast, and I was thankful to have someone to hang out with after the race.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winning


I am a sports fan, through and through. I grew up watching, appreciating, and participating in the classic American mainstream sports, i.e. football, basketball, baseball. Although my current athletic exploits are in much more fringe sports, I still love to watch the ESPN sports. I once had a conversation with someone who told me she watches games only for the games themselves, and despite regularly watching professional basketball, she really pays no attention to the personalities of the players. I have always viewed athletes in a larger context of who they are as people. I always took this into account when identifying athletes as heroes and role models. As far as I am concerned, there is more to being "great" than being skilled and talented.

This year was the first year I have watched the NBA finals seriously for many years (probably at least ten). For me, the NBA has lacked intrigue even since the end of the Jordan era (every single boy of my generation wanted to be Michael Jordan. Period.). To generalize, most NBA games in this day-and-age are a severely boring escapade in w
hich semi-motivated athletes play a slow-tempo, half-court isolation offense in which the highest paid star can take his defender one on one to the basket, score his 30 points, and make his several hundred thousand dollars for the night of work. Most players do not even act like they care at all until the last 5 minutes of the game. However, during the finals this year, I felt compelled by the competition, largely due to the extreme disparity in the nature and style of the two teams. The super-hyped, super-talented, super-cocky Heat against the super-refined, super-experienced, super-hungry Mavs. I pulled for the Mavs, the whole series, finding great satisfaction in their victory. Why would I pull for a team I have never had the remotest bit of interest in before? The polarizing figure of LeBron James completely turned me off, whereas I could not help but root for Dirk Nowitzki.

I would criticize LeBron James even if he and his team had w
on the NBA championship this year. Why? Because there is more to being great than simply winning. It is the way in which you win that makes you great. I have no problem with Lebron leaving Cleveland to sign with another team (after all, Cleveland is a city with nothing going for it... I have been there; it sucks). However, the whole Heat charade that went on with "The Decision," the ridiculous welcome party and the proclamation and guarantee of seven or more championships was the most ridiculous and classless display I have ever seen. Lesson learned: do not celebrate like you have won before you have even played a game. You may be asking at this point "hey, didn't Mav's player Jason Terry get an image of the NBA trophy tattooed on him BEFORE the season." Yes, but guess what? He won.
He and his team won by carrying themselves with class, playing as a team, and playing harder than their opponents in crunch time. Class shines through at the end of the game, and James was nowhere to be seen it such circumstances in this series, buried under the clutch play of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Dirk Nowitzki.

Winning is important. Winning the right way is more important. A true champion carries himself with dignity and class. LeBron James does not know how to be a role model. He cannot talk to the media, does not know how to carry himself off the court. His ambiguous press-talk statements, his mocking of Dirk Nowitzki on camera, an
d his general air of "I do not care what anyone thinks" prevent him from being a likable character. It is one thing to have a carefree attitude, many have before (Shaq, Barkley, etc). However, in the case of LeBron, it is a facade. He is deeply sensitive and takes everything personally. He puts up a front of confidence, but I would suggest that it is his lack of confidence that got him mired in this mess in the first place. The more he denies it, the greater beating he will take from the media and his doubters.

The way you carry yourself, in and out of competition, is something that it entirely in your control. I would argue that it plays just as large a role in greatness as talent. Dirk Novitzki is great. Michael Jordan is great. Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Chrissie Wellington, Chris McCormack, and Haile Gebrselassie are great. They are great champions. LeBron James is talented, but it not great (yet). He is not a great champion; he is not even a champion. Maybe he will be some day, if he puts his head down, humbles himself, and stops acting like everyone is his enemy. For his sake, I hope he wins someday. But I certainly hope he wins the right way. Good luck, LeBron.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fear

Something really struck a chord with me today when I read Gordo's blog last week. Gordo (father of a brand new baby boy!) is a great role model of mine, and someone who I hope to get to know better (he lives right down the road, but I have not really seen much of him since I arrived in Boulder. I frequently read his articles, and I would say he sometimes uses his writing as a form of self-examination, and a tool to make sense of and reflect on certain feelings, thoughts, and experiences. I like to use writing to achieve the same objective, but I rarely take the time to organize it in a coherent manner, and I share it even more infrequently. So then, why today? I have not blogged since January. Plus, it takes me a long time to write anything, due to my ADD (I wrote some beastly papers in college, and they took FOREVER. I was never a bang-out-a-paper-in-one-night type of guy). Well, apparently Gordo's self-examination, inspired by another's self-examination (upon reading Macca's new book), further inspired yet another self-examination, namely my own. It was Gordo's discussion of fear that set off the light bulb in my head. There is a lot that I am fearful of right now. Perhaps writing about my fears will illuminate them and maybe even help put me on the path toward squashing them.

Fear of being alone. I sit here, 12.5 months post University graduation, 1600 miles away, 5000 ft higher, a year older, and still feeling the more-common-than-you-might-think emptiness that follows college for a lot of kids. I definitely did not make this so easy on myself but taking off and moving to a place where I essentially knew nobody, had no job lined up, etc. I threw myself in the deep end and had no idea when I would reach the shore. I'm still floating here, but it's been wavy.
Why did I do this? It took a lot of courage to leave in the first place, considering the utter failure I experienced during the only other attempt at an extended departure from Rochester. My friends and family brought me back from the doldrums and made the last two years of college unforgettable and amazing. So obviously, packing up and leaving was going to be hard. I am and have always been fully aware of just how lucky I am to have such strong bonds with my loved ones, and I realize that this is not something everybody has. The attempt to build a support system here in Colorado is likely to take a while, and the fact that I am a very shy person does not help. There are certain situations that can bring out a very outgoing side of my personality, but the more time I spend alone, the more my shyness exhibits itself.
I moved to Colorado to pursue athletic dreams. Boulder has some of the best training opportunities in the USA. I could have chosen a number of other places, and to be honest the specific place was not the imperative deciding factor in leaving home. As far as I see it, in order to achieve or surpass my potential as an athlete, I need to be in an atmosphere where I can truly give 100% effort to chasing the dream. Part of that is avoiding temptations. Although I did a ton of racing and a lot of training in college, I did allow myself to have a "normal" college experience, complete with partying, etc. I wanted to leave that behind, and go somewhere that I could be free of such things. Even though I largely have freed myself of negative influences, I have also lost one of the most important contributing factors of my past successes: close proximity to a fully developed support system. Essentially, I've found very difficult to have my best friend, or my Dad be just the voice on the other side of the phone line. Sometimes you just need a hug. As I continue to drive forward, we will really get to see if I can do this without them. My flirtations with "depression" this year have not been due to some sort of mental illness or neuro-chemical imbalance. They've been because I miss the people I love.
Some of my closest friends are eyeing Boulder as a possible home for the next few years, and I really hope that they decide to come out. Chuckie and Ang will be back for the summer. A couple of buddies will be here to visit over the next couple of months. I do continue to meet people and make friends, but I have to realize it will take more than 9 months to develop what it took 10-20 years to build in NY. I think that things will continue to get better.

Fear of failure. Getting to the elite level is not an easy thing to do. Unless you're a mega-talent, it takes a lot of work to do. Everybody feels that they are not doing enough. I've focused on my run over the past few months, allowing my swimming to drop way off focus. Now the alarm bells are going off. It's difficult to maintain perspective. I am a working man (at a low paying job), and work is a stress. Too much stress and the body cannot grow. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Jack Daniels speak twice when I went to OTC camp back in high school, and both times he talked about happiness and a lack of stress being an essential part of training progression (he talks a little bit about it here, albeit indirectly). For now, the best thing I can do is focus on doing things to put myself in a position to achieve more quality training farther down the road (consistent running is the most important thing I can do). Really, patience is key. But as a twenty-something year old, patience is one of the most difficult virtues to exude. Things go wrong, and, as Chuck says, we have to be able to adapt and make the best out of the situation. I am trying to do that. One of my favorite university professors says of myself and my co-eds, "we are doomed to success." However, there is always fear of coming up short.

Fear of the unknown
I can use the sea-faring voyage for this one. I've set off on a ship, and I have an idea of where I want to go. I do not know what sort of storms I will encounter along the way, or if/when I reach my destination, it will be the one I had in mind. I guess we will see. Some career moves are in the works which I am excited about, but there is of course the fear that it will not be the right move, or that I may not achieve my desired amount of success. All I can do is keep moving forward, and working hard.

In an uncontrollable world, the only thing you can control is yourself. You choose how you present yourself to the world and respond to adversity and challenge. You cannot grab things by the scruff of the neck and make them work in your favor. However, if you make sure you do everything in your power to put yourself in a position where good things can happen for you. That is what I am trying to do.

For those of you who have helped me through thus far, thank you so much. I love you. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am going to have a hard time being without you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Musical Review "Countdown"

Well, I have not blogged in a really long time. That not due to lack of love for any of you, nor a lack of wanting to blog, but rather a lack of time to devote to such an activity. However, I will spare some time at the moment. Within the next couple days (I promise), I will deliver my year-in-review of 2010. However, we will begin with my year-in-review of this year's music. Every year, local radio stations always create some sort of "top 40 songs of the year" countdown that they play on New Years Day. This year, I decided to create a list of my own. Many of these songs conjure up memories of the past year. For those of you who don't know, my two favorite genres of music are metal/hardcore and dance pop. The songs on this list are largely a mix of those two types of songs. So, without further ado, these are the top 15-ish songs of my 2010 year (Dislaimer: Some of these may have been released in late 2009, but I heard them a lot in 2010 so it counts. Disclaimer II: If you do not like my music, I do not care. Don't waste your time reading this). These are NOT in any particular order, because that would take too much effort.

Ke$ha- Tik Tok: For all intents and purposes, this song sucks. But it's just so damn catchy. More importantly, it reminds me all the fun I had with my friends at school this year. We heard this one at all senior nights and social gatherings, and it will always remind me of Senior Year at UR.

DJ Khalid ft. Ludacris, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg-All I do is win: One of my favorite songs of spring/summer. Reminds me of Senior Week, my first trip to Boulder, and cruising in the car cranking tunes with Markus.

The Black Eyed Peas-Rock that body: This single dropped right around the time the school year was winding down. It will forever remind me of how hard we tried to squeeze every last drop of fun out of the semester that we could.

Enrique Iglesias-I like it: Many of you know how much I love the MTV's masterpiece of a "reality show" Jersey Shore. It was just natural that I would love Enrique Iglesias' theme song for Season 2, and FIST PUMP every time I heard it. When I moved to Boulder I watched every Thursday Night, and was able to laugh with my friends (from afar) about the stupid things that happened on that week's episode. In a weird way, one the most ridiculously trashy (yet fantastically entertaining) things ever put on TV provided some comfort to me as I tried to adjust to my new life.

Jamie's Elsewhere- Giants among common men: I absolutely love bands to manage to combine metalcore with electro-pop/synth elements. A recent discovery of mine, I am digging the whole Jamie's Elsewhere album "They Said a Storm was coming." Good to listen to while running, lifting, or driving in the car.

I See Stars-What this means to me: I listened to the I See Stars album nonstop while driving to Ithaca to visit my buddy Markus in the Spring. An excellent contrast between the hard stuff and the clean stuff is what I really love. I listened to the album too much in a short period of time, and am now sick of. Additionally, they kind of sucked when I saw them play at Warped Tour. However, "What this means to me" remains one of my top songs of the year.

Eminem- Not Afraid/No Love/Almost Famous: For better or worse, there were several things that my generation grew up with. One such constant for us was music from Eminem. I had lost interest in him over the years as I grew weary of his played out "Slim Shady" bullshit, hoping that he would eventually make an album that was completely serious the whole way through (in the same vein as "Til I collapse, The Way I am, and others). That is exactly what he delivered in his 2010 album Recovery. Gone were the stupid accents, corny qausi-humorous pot-shots taken at pop stars, and general clownery. Rather, he took a no-nonsense approach and spoke about his rise from nearly reaching rock bottom because of drug addiction, tragedy, and self-perceived failure. These three songs contain some of his most driven verses on the album, and are the type of songs that I hope we hear from him more often in the future. We kids who listened to Eminem beginning in around 6th grade (yes, Mom and Dad, I listened to music with swearing in it... sorry... how much it corrupted me is debatable) have grown up, and it appears that Eminem has grown up with us.

Usher ft. Will.I.Am-OMG: Another song that dropped in the spring, and therefore was a fixture at our late-semester get-togethers (I realize this is becoming a repetitive explanation). The reason I like this one so much is because I think it was my buddy Trevor's favorite song. Seeing him get so stoked whenever it came on was hilarious, and therefore it reminds me of good times with my best friend.

Taio Cruz- Break Your Heart: One of the great features of our suite was the loud music always emanating from my roommate Mike's room. He played this song constantly for about a month in (you guessed it) the springtime. It's another fun song on the swan song soundtrack of college.

Flo Rida- Club Can't Handle Me: This is one of the catchiest songs of the year. Plus, it's off the Step Up 3D soundtrack. My roommate Steph and I went to see that when I went to visit her in TX. The movie sucked, but it was fun.

Ludacris- How Low: I honestly thought the chipmunk voice feature in rap songs was dead, until my buddy Shervy started playing this song nonstop. I continued to hear it nonstop during spring break and while cruising around with my buddy Drew at the Philly Phlyer collegiate bike race.

Abandon All Ships- Take One Last Breath: Double bass, heavy use of synth. Sounds amazing when you turn it up as loud as possible. Awesome.

A Day To Remember- Second Sucks/Sticks and Bricks/This is the house that doubt build: My favorite band dropped a new album in November. I was so amazingly stoked to listen to it. The CD is good, not great, but several songs stand out. Second Sucks is HARD, and provides a great response to critics that accuse the band of selling out, etc. Sticks and Bricks is in the same metal vein, but mixed with a clean chorus. This House is excellent lyrically, and shows off the more pop/rock side of ADTR. As far as I can see, they will never produce another album like "For Those who have Heart," but as long as they are making music, I will be happy.

Four Year Strong- Wasting Time/Find My Way Back/It must really suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now: Another one of my absolute favorite bands, they put out an awesome album in 2010. I got the privilege of seeing them live during the summer, where they rocked out and put on a great show with tons of energy. However, I also absolutely love their acoustic versions of their songs, which show off their true musical talent. I have been listening to the acoustic versions of Wasting Time and Find my way back nonstop these past few weeks. It Must Really Suck shows off their rock side.

Attack Attack- Smokahantas: Attack Attack came out with a new album on my birthday. The album is okay, despite a considerable departure from their previous album. The new lead vocalist (replacing Austin Carlile, who can scream his head off) is pretty "blah," but a couple songs are creative, such as this one, with a pretty sweet breakdown in the middle. The reason this song makes the list? I played it for one of my buddies while I was performing Designated Driver duties, and my drunk friend (who will remain nameless here) was rocking out SO HARD to this song. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. He reportedly woke up with more of a bangover than a hangover.