Archive for February, 2010

Running Steady in the Snow

admin | February 21, 2010 in Endurance,Running | Comments (13)

No more.  Not one more day.  It’s makin’ me nuts, being stuck on the treadmill these past few days.


I grew up in Texas; I live in Tennessee.  Not the most northern of climates.  The band hasn’t been on tour through the winter in a good while…and I realize I’m not equipped for running in the slush and snow, so I need to be smart.  Can’t slip or get sidelined by being stupid; not only would this get in the way of my regular marathon training…but waddling around on stage as we kick off our “Southern Voice” concert tour with a twisted ankle or calf strain just wouldn’t be good.

Oh sure…I could get Tim McGraw to sign my cast.  Lady Antebellum and The Lost Trailers are our opening acts.  They’d sign it, too.  But working the pedals for a piano with my feet trapped in a cast…NOT cool.

So vigilance is key.  Be aware.  I’ll stay away from the streets, because I don’t trust the drivers.  I’ll take on the park.  It’ll be less thawed, but safer.

I’ll slow down.  I don’t normally run with headphones anyway, but even if I did, I ain’t.  Stay in the moment.  Fully engage.  Aim for the fresh snow and better traction.  Shorten my stride.  Careful. CAREFUL!

If I need to walk, I’ll walk.  Take my time…and dance attentively so as not to succumb to the icy path before me.

Quiet.  Crunch.  Cold.  Crunch.  Peaceful.  Crunch.

I hope it snows again tomorrow.

Cook What You Catch

admin | February 19, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (11)

I haven’t even tackled the task yet, and already I am one of the best jokes of 2009 for my band brothers:  “The economy has gotten so bad…even JEFF is cooking!”

NO, Jeff is TALKING about cooking.  I have no skillet, no knives, no experience.  There’s no need to look in the pantry to assess groceries; I’m quite sure the proverbial cupboard is bare.

“How can you not know how to cook?” I’m asked.  Practice.  I’m a well-trained non-cook.  I don’t remember much cooking at home as a kid.  I worked in restaurants all through college.  Played in bands after that, and as things improved, fast food became better restaurants and then catering in arenas.

I don’t know the first thing about cooking.  I don’t know where to even find the first thing.  Every so often, I’ve tried to get those wheels turning, but confusion and overwhelm quickly grinds them to a halt.  I’ve even looked through the “Cooking for Dummies” sections at Borders bookstore, but I never seem to find the book that’s dumb enough for me.

But things are changing.  They have to.

At this point, I’ve already made my way to Florida to spend, or avoid, Valentine’s Day. In less than two days, I’ve gone toe-to…FIN…with a “Mike Tyson-esque” amberjack on my first deep-sea fishing expedition and won.  I’ve wrapped him and packed him for our return to Nashville following my completion of the 2009 Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon, and I’ve run a personal best for the distance.  Yea me.

But NOW…it is time to truly dig deep…and face the truly frightening.

It’s not about the cooking for me.  It’s about completing the journey.  Seeing it through.  I can’t travel across the country to go fishing for valentines, fight through the battle to find and ultimately land this treasure…and then just shrug my shoulders, cut the line, and toss it aside.

I don’t want a trophy for the wall.  I don’t need to increase my tally so I can say, “I caught another one.”  I just want to know that I embraced what I never knew, didn’t shy away from what I’ve never experienced, and was fearless enough to see it all the way through.

Cook what you catch.  Reach the finish line.  I can do this.

Captain Tommy insists this is an easy way to go: beat 2 eggs and then fill the bottom of a pan with canola oil; then, bread with Progresso bread crumbs and fry on each side until brown. Don’t walk away from the pan!!!  Stove on 6 if electric.

I’m gonna blow something up.  I just know it.  Set a fire.  I pull out a box of baking soda from the refrigerator and set it on the counter, just in case.

I’ve turned up the stove to heat the oil…but how will I know if it’s hot enough?  I called a girlfriend of mine to ask, and she explains the “flick water drops into the oil to see if it pops” routine.  I’d seen this on TV before, but though impressed by MacGyver’s ability to defuse a bomb with Liquid Paper and a toothpick, I wasn’t prepared to trust his insights in my kitchen without talking to her first.

Flick.  Pop.  Pop.  Here we go…

I lay the fish in the pan, and the sizzling begins.  As the fish cooks, I microwave some scalloped potatoes I made that afternoon.  That hadn’t been so intimidating.  It had been slower, quieter.  Read right off the box, covered, and placed calmly into the oven.  This frying game is HOT, LOUD, and LIVE!

POP!  What was that?  Lift with a spatula…not black.  That’s good, right?…

I grab some pre-washed spinach and some raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  Cherry tomatoes.  Salad construction.  Hey, if I’m gonna try to do this, let’s do it right.

I think that’s brown enough.  Flip it over.  So far so good…

I take a look over the virgin deflowering of my kitchen and wonder if I can possible recover from the mess I’ve created before my next road trip.  I’ve only got a few days, and I’ve done quite a number on the place.

No way.  Did I actually do this?  I lift the fish from the pan…turn the temperature to “off.”  Deal with the dishes later.  Build the plate…

I sit down on the sofa, fork in hand, and prop my feet up with my newly assembled dinner in my lap.  As I take another bite, I notice photographs on the fireplace mantle of two of my first Team McGraw marathon teams.  One would think that the cheering fans at the finish line of a 26.2-mile marathon, after months and years of training and pain and perseverance and strain, would echo much louder and longer than the sound of oil poppin’ in a pan across the room…

…but, well…let me just say…I’m pretty proud of myself right now.

RACE REPORT: Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon 2009

admin | February 16, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (9)

It was still some hours before sunrise when the alarm on my cell phone went off. I had already laid out my running duds, as I knew I’d likely forget something in the foggy stupor of “just woke up.”

I considered takin’ “Jack” with me, who I’d met just the day before on my first deep-sea fishing adventure, but he elected to just “chill” in the hotel room while I headed out to run the Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon. I sensed he might be offended that the race was named after grouper and not amberjack, so I assured him I’d take him out for dinner sometime soon.  He never said anything, so I assumed he was good with that.

Besides, on that day…I was running alone.

Okay…not alone alone. Some thousands of other folks were saddling up for the 2009 Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon just like me; a smaller number were takin’ on the full marathon distance. Just nobody I knew; I was on my own.

And that was the plan all along. I’d come to Florida because I was not going to sit in Nashville alone on Valentine’s Day weekend…and a long hard run was exactly what I wanted. What I needed.  Fishing for Valentines” the day before was, well, what it was – an uncommon opportunity making for a uniquely appropriate Valentine’s Day.

I hadn’t run my own race in over two years. I’d run numerous half marathons and two New York City Marathons since November 2007 as one of the leaders of the Team McGraw endurance program; in each race, I’d run with various members of our team, done damage control for injured or troubled runners, (some Team McGraw folks, some not), gone back after stragglers or just chatted my way along the course at someone else’s pace.

I had no idea what I might deliver if I took all of my own stress and strain, joy and anger, and left it all out on the course on my own terms.

Today I would find out.

My buddy Mick showed up early at my hotel to head to the start with me. Dude, you did not have to get up this early, I told him. “I ain’t runnin’, but you’re my boy, so I’m gonna be here to support ya!” he said.

He’s a good ‘un.

February or not, it was hot and humid in Florida, so the runners took to the line in the dark to escape as much of the heat as possible. The course was simple: start at the Ringling Brothers museum, finish at the Ringling Brothers museum. An out-an-back. Less chance of getting lost. I was good with that.

Something felt kinda strange – after running two New York City marathons — but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I remember thinking, everyone seems so distant, unfriendly, almost evasive. Wait…that’s not it…they’re just…spread out? Yeah, that’s it! It was a smaller race, so we weren’t stacked on top of each other as we shuffled into position, shoulder-to-shoulder for forty blocks between inflexible hard plastic corral fencing.

I was likin’ this.

My pal disappeared as I headed towards the start. There’s the gun. I’ll be walking for a good while. Oh, I’m already running. Right…smaller race. I forgot.

Not a lot to see, as it was still dark. We kept the water to our right as we wove through some pretty nice neighborhoods; I was told they were nice…but I really couldn’t see much. I took their word for it.

“McMAHON!!!” There’s Mick , all climbed up on a lightpole with his camera. How’d he get up there? No matter. He’s all about the cheerleading, without the jumps. Like I said…a good ‘un. Yo, Mick.

I settled on ten-minute miles. The math was simple, and I just wanted to lock in. The miles clicked by. As the sun came up, the view of the water was pacifying, and the course was essentially flat.

The race was well-staffed and water-stocked, and I had two Espresso flavored Hammer Gels in my pockets.

It’s hot. So what. Run. Don’t think. Just run.

Well, I say don’t think. When I run, I still listen. Listen to my legs. Listen to my body. If I get a tweak, I’m not gonna miss it for the the current hit by the Blackeyed Peas hammering out from my iPod.  I prefer the hammering of my feet on the street; I prefer listening to me.

I wish this story was more dynamic, but it’s just not. I turned back at the halfway mark, and started it all over again. There was a slight incline on the causeway at the turn around, but since we spun there, it really negated itself. Tens were working, I was thinkin’ I could hold ‘em, and thought I might even have something left at the end for the last mile.

I did. Coach Kevin calls it “packing all that emotion and anger and inspiration and hope and bitterness and frustration into a bottle and holding onto it until that last mile…and then opening the bottle.”

I opened it. The last mile was my fastest of the race, resulting in a finishing time of 2:10:38…and a personal best.  Done.

Now…time to get back to the team.

Fishing for Valentines

admin | February 14, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (11)

Nobody wants to be out on the road for every holiday.  But it happens.  I remember having Thanksgiving in hotels attached to small clubs “back in the day,” before we had hits…and before we could say “we aren’t working on Thanksgiving.”

It’s the music business.  It’s SHOW business.  Sometimes, it’s the holiday that makes the show…and sometimes, the show just happens to fall on the holidays.  It’s just how it works with what we do.

Take this morning.  Lots of folks started this morning – (or should have, guys) — with breakfast in bed for their wives.  Kids were waking up moms with homemade Valentines cards, and sweethearts were waking up to deliveries and gifts from admirers known and unknown across the country.

In my world, I woke up from a nap on a bus parked in the middle of the track of the Daytona 500.  Grabbed a cup of coffee from a table in the middle of the parking lot…and stumbled groggily to a flatbed trailer of a stage.  Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors are kicking off the race with songs from our new “Southern Voice” album, it’s on TV, and we’ve got a sound check to do before we perform for an audience.

Valentine's Day: 2010

Not so last year.  We were off…but sitting around at home over Valentine’s weekend, even if I could, wandering back and forth from room to room and intermittently jumping online to be find someone’s idyllic storytelling of romance or syrupy anecdote of the lovelorn rescued by just wasn’t crankin’ my motor.

I did jump online to search “half marathons, February 14.”  I don’t recall finding anything.  I did find a few options for “February 15,” but most were too far from Nashville.  Then I found “Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon”…and a road trip began to form.

A buddy wanted to tag along and visit family in Sarasota, so the drive would be shared.  Another buddy lived there and suggested possibly deep-sea fishing on the Saturday before the February 15 race.  I had really just been looking for a place to run, but in a weird way, it all started to fall together.

Valentine's Day: 2009

Yep. I was goin’ fishing. On Valentine’s Day. To me, it made sense.

Not that I had ever GONE fishing before; I had only the foggiest recollection of going fishing with my grandfather once as a child.  This would be, for all practical purposes, a “first” for me.

I googled “deep sea fishing” and “Sarasota, Florida” and pulled a fishing trip at random.  Placed a call to see if a space was available, as I was going solo.  The fella on the phone didn’t have an opening, but he wandered up and down the pier – (as there are strings of folks that do these all along the coast) – and found a colleague that had a spot.

Awesome; I’d be headed out with Captain Tommy Tinacci from Catch the Spirit Sport Fishing to bring home some amberjack.  I didn’t know what amberjack was, either…but I could google that, too.

I found a description on a website for Light Tackle Fishing in Key West, Florida.  They referred to amberjack as “solid muscle, the “Mike Tyson of the fish world.  According to the site, amberjack “fight dirty and never know when to give up.”  So, if I hooked one of these suckers, it would be between me and him, and I had better be packin’ my “don’t quit.”

Cool; I had already packed it for the half marathon anyway.

I arrive at the dock before dawn for our early morning departure.  Captain Tommy rallied the troops and our boat headed out pronto.  I wasn’t feeling especially chatty and found a corner of the boat where I could embrace the morning wind in my face and the best view of the sunrise.

It was beautifully melancholy and, at the same time, invigorating.  Deep breath. This is good.

After a couple of false starts and “no luck” fishin’ holes, Captain Tommy anchored our boat in what would be my battleground.  He set up a fishing rig for me – (again, I’m the rookie of our crew) – and walked me through the “if you feel this, pull hard to set the hook…and go to work.”

Captain Tommy Tinacci of Catch the Spirit Sport Fishing in Sarasota, Florida.

I felt it.  I pulled hard.  I set the hook.  Here we go.

To say “Jack” was not especially interested in joining me in our boat is an understatement.  When I hooked him, he took off..and fast. I wondered what would happen if he carried out all the line on my reel.  Then he took a turn and I felt the line slack a bit…so I started reeling him in.

I imagined myself on one of those fishing shows on The Outdoor Channel: ride up slowly with the rod, keeping the line taught, then lean forward to create just a hint of give such that I could turn the handle, once, twice, three times perhaps…and do it again.  And again.  And again.

Jack and I had been at it for probably twenty minutes when Captain Tommy offered, “If you are getting tired, you can hand me the rod.”  Seriously?  Not gonna happen.  Look, Cap’n, while I would not pretend to have won every challenging situation I’ve confronted…even when I lose, I don’t go down easily.

Now come here, you rascal! Another twenty minutes and “Jack” was in the boat.  Success.  “Sorry, ‘Jack.’  Oh…and Happy Valentine’s Day.”

The rest of our boat each scored one as well; I was the only one to be catching his first.  And as this trip was “full service,” the captain explained that each of our catches would be filleted and wrapped such that we could carry them home to our respective freezers for a proper dining experience.

Oh.  HUH.  In the eighteen years I’ve lived in Nashville, I’d used my kitchen…let’s see…never.  But after winning the long, hard fight with my saltwater scoundrel, I hardly wanted to find myself deterred by the idea of seeing this journey all the way through.

Stunned at the mere thought, I took my wax-wrapped winnings, iced ‘em down in a Styrofoam cooler, and resolved not to even contemplate the next steps until I got home.

Until after the half marathon.  That, I was ready for.  I had the rugged for the run, the strength for the struggle.

But …cooking?

Makin’ the Record: “Southern Voice”

admin | February 13, 2010 in Music,Running | Comments (12)

Once upon a time, Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors made a record.  The people in the town couldn’t wait to hear it.  Tim was very proud of both the record…and his band…with whom he made this record.

“I’m ready for everyone to hear [the songs],” said McGraw.  “I think it’s the best work that we’ve done.  Great collection of songs, the tones, the whole sorta tapestry of the album is something you can really wrap your arms around.”

Unfortunately, the record got lost in the woods and didn’t come out for a long, long, time.  When it did finally make its way out of the darkness, it was a lot like listening to the record for the first time…even for the boys that made it.

Music is funny.  So much time can pass, and one song can still put you right back in a particular place, heart and soul, like nothing else can.  Sights, smells, sounds, and feelings can all rush back with just a few notes of a particular tune.  And it doesn’t have to be one of those “break your heart” songs, either; if “My Baloney Has a First Name” was something you laughed about with someone you love, then even that silly little hot-dog ditty can carry your heart back to the tenderness of that time.

Hmmm…(“It’s O-S-C-A-R”…)

I can remember exactly what was happening in my life when we made this record together.  The good and the bad.  The things I was excited about, and the things that pained my soul.  What was on my heart, in my mind…and even in my legs.

Yeah.  As it happens…the first day of our “Southern Voice” recording sessions was the first day after the ING New York City Marathon 2007. My third marathon; my first in New York City.  If you’re a runner, you’ve been there.  Hobbling, stiff, constantly trying to stretch back out and get things moving again after yesterday’s pounding.  I was sitting still at the piano day and night for those first few days, constantly shifting my weight to find a comfortable position, forgetting that, for a while, there just won’t be one.

Whew.  That was tough…but totally worth it.

These songs carry me back to all those things.  And now, after our musical marathon, the new “Southern Voice” record has found the finish line.  The songs are out, and it’s time to carry them out to the folks.

So we are hittin’ the road – probably comin’ nearby.  I’ll have my runnin’ shoes in my bag and I’ll be logging miles all over the country.  I’m still forming a real running plan, but I think Coach Kevin already has something in mind for me.  ‘Til then…

I’m just planning to run.


Click here to visit the Official Tim McGraw Store and purchase a copy of the album “Southern Voice” by Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors.

Snowbound: Shopping Cart Resistance Training

admin | February 12, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (5)

Nashville doesn’t get a lot of snow.  When it does snow, things can really shut down.  Honestly, there are times when just the rumor of a winter onslaught puts everyone in high gear…without even a lick o’ snow on the radar.

Schools are closed because it might.  Plans are cancelled because it could.  And grocery stores, those suckers find themselves immediately overwhelmed with folks preparing for the countless days locked away in their homes with no means of contact with the civilized world…just in case.

There are the others…undeterred…seemingly unaware of the fact that roads covered in snow are a bit more treacherous than dry ones.  “Slow down?  Why?  I done threw a spare tire in the back of the truck to weight it down; I’m good.”


Well, Nashville got hit pretty good recently.  Good at least for us.  I’ve already received multiple “hardy points” as a Texas native/Tennessee resident having braved the dead of winter in Minnesota, so it doesn’t shake me up too much.  But we do wind up with nasty roads, abandoned vehicles, and icy sidewalks all over Music City.

Not really conducive to a runner whose wardrobe goes just deep enough for one real good snow a year.

So as I ponder exactly what the day’s training is to be, I ease my way over to Starbucks and find countless shopping carts stranded and stuck in ice and slush throughout the adjacent grocery store parking lot.  They won’t roll; they’re just kinda all forced out of the way.

When that high school bagger/checker kid with the open windbreaker makes his way out to the cart stand – (Zip it up, dude; it’s like…TEN DEGREES!) – his “push all the carts for me” machine ain’t gonna work, and he’s gonna have to do them all by hand, one at a time, while the wind cuts straight through him.

He’s screwed.

So I grab one of the carts.  It pulls right, then left, and I can feel my abs and hip flexors, well, flexing, as my stabilizing mechanisms engage.  Push it forward, can’t, shove, there it goes, whoa, lower back flex, might slip, calf flex so I don’t, easy, steady.  Whew.  That was tough.

I think of my local running cohorts, each wondering if they will get out today “in all this.”  Figure they could just drop by here…get some resistance training in.  Probably wouldn’t get ‘em what they might get at the gym, but it’s somethin’.  Besides, if they DON’T get out by the end of the day, before it gets dark and everything refreezes…they’ll at least feel better about themselves having helped out the kid in the windbreaker.

Besides…the gym is closed down for the weekend.  Snow.

I go back for another cart.

RACE REPORT: Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2009

admin | in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (7)

I know; it’s kind of a reach back. But 2009 was my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon, my first run with runnin’ buddies Matt Beck and Steve Cibulka…and my first step in what would prove to be a year-long quest towards immortality.

Okay, not IMMORTALITY. But…just stayed tuned. We’ll get there.

The week before the race, well, I’ve already walked, skied, and skated you through all that in “Ice Skates and Runnin’ Shoes.” So…I launch from Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport late Saturday night after playing in the ice and snow all day; the race is Sunday morning. My pal Steve picks me up at the Phoenix airport around midnight. We toss my two bags, backpack, and acoustic guitar in the back of his truck and set off for his apartment.

I don’t normally carry a guitar, but just in case I get stuck in the airport and have to sing for my supper…I am prepared.

It’s warm in Phoenix, but I’m still wrapped in a residual Minnesota chill. A reflection and a shiver still wander up my spine, and I like it. Still, I know I’ll blow all that snow out on the course the next morning.

That’s the idea, anyway.

His big ol’ scaredy-cat of a dog meets us at the door after hearing the ruckus of a newcomer dragging things up the outside stairs. Greets his “daddy” and then skirts the perimeter of the apartment in order to stay as far from “the stranger” as possible. Bags tossed in a corner, ice water in hand, we camp on the sofa to form a game plan for the next morning, and before long, I am not quite as “strange” when scratching the head of a furry new friend.

Personally, I’ve no real strategy for the race. My last race was the ING New York City Marathon in 2008; my time was 5:24:40, but it really doesn’t tell me much. I ran with many members of our Team McGraw posse, sometimes walking, sometimes running. Totally ran their race…or races. So what my time should be, I’ve no clue.

Together, our collective game plan for the half is pretty simple: get up early, meet Matt, stay together, run our guts out, finish. At the end, maybe I will have learned something.

As in most cases, the simple answer works. We showed up at the course early and track down the third musketeer. We are all decked out in our red Team McGraw jerseys, which not only help us raise awareness of our support for the Tug McGraw Foundation and quality of life brain tumor research, but also make it easier for us to find one another among thousands of runners.

Matt has gone the extra mile and strategically placed an official “P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon” tattoo on the back of his head. This is to be his first race in many years, and I believe his first half- marathon ever. He is committed, and really, dude…the tat’s kickin’!

The gun fires and we dig in. We settle quickly, feelin’ good, enjoying the company of one another, and while we are hittin’ a good clip, neither of us feels pulled along so fast that we need to bail on the others. At our 5K marker, we’re lookin’ at an 11:08 pace.

It’s pretty hot, so we are attentive to the water stops, and there are plenty. I walk through most of them, as I’ve never learned to drink on the run without drowning. (I will figure that out somewhat through the year, but never very well.) Dehydration is not part of our plan, and we keep each other honest.

We dial back our pace a bit, hitting our 10K mark with 11:23’s. We aren’t sure who is leaning back, but it’s okay. We’re stickin’ together regardless…and the long straight-aways are getting’ fun to stretch out on.

Rumor has it that there is to be a small band of Team McGraw supporters somewhere out on the course. I have carried my camera throughout the run, just in case we see them. I expect them to be around this next corner; I’m getting ready, turning the corner, here they come! “SNAP!”

Oh…no…that wasn’t for us. “Go Joy.” Well, I’m glad to know that she’s got some backers out here. I’ll keep her in mind as well, wherever she is. OH…here they are! “Ya Gotta Believe!” Woo-hoo!!!

Our pace is slightly derailed as we stop for a quick photo op; it’s a small sacrifice for the encouragement these folks have provided us, and whatever time we lose in stopping for the shots, we will make back up with a revitalized spring from their support. Thanks, guys!

By the tenth mile, we’ve made up some time and aren’t even feeling it. It’s a good day to run, and our race time now reflects an 11:12 pace. We dig in for the final three and aim for the finish.

We cross the line at 2:24:17. Average pace of 11:01…and a viable measuring stick for where I sit currently on my training. We have been consistent and steady and have properly executed a pretty good “negative” race. (“Negative” = the last half of the race being faster than the first half. As it should be.) A well-staffed event, few corners, bright and warm weather at the finish.

A terrific first race for 2009 shared with my pals.

The guys did share this little tidbit with me during the race. They had both had second thoughts some weeks prior to the race, and the possibility of not running had been considered. But they told me that, because they knew I was flying in to join their merry band, they knew they couldn’t back out. However, according to them, if hadn’t flown in for the race…they probably wouldn’t have run it.

Funny. It dawns on me…if I hadn’t flown it…I wouldn’t have run it, either.


Team McGraw Endurance Program

admin | February 8, 2010 in Endurance,Running | Comments (11)

Brain tumor survivor Jen McDevitt (left), Chris Keller (center), and I stuck together for the Country Music Half Marathon in 2008; Chris went on to finish the full marathon...the show-off!

I wish I could say I’ve always stood as a shining star of self-discipline when it came to my running.  Uncompromising, stalwart, never relying on others to get me out the door on those days that motivation tends to be a bit lacking.  The best athletes possess that quality, and I do okay, but I could do better.

In truth, my training sword became much sharper with the establishment of the Team McGraw endurance program.  Through this program, athletes are guided and trained for events of their choosing while they offer their support for the Tug McGraw Foundation and quality of life brain tumor research; I carry the keys as director of the program.

I’ve met other folks that run programs like this, and believe me, they ain’t all runners.  Many don’t even pretend to be.  I just can’t do that; I’m more of a “lead from the front” kinda guy.  I don’t have to be the fastest out there, but if you are going in to fight the fire – then I’m goin’ in with ya.

And man…are there some great folks goin’ in to fight that fire.

An inspiring survivor of a brain tumor that didn’t complete her first marathon until after her original diagnosis.  A father that trains for his first marathon in honor of the fight currently underway with his own son.  A wife that runs a half-marathon to inspire her survivor husband…who later completes the same distance at her side.

These and so many others have not only challenged some endurance event as “Team McGraw” – be it a run, walk, hike, climb, ride, or swim – but they have done so to serve.  To serve those combating brain tumors.  Those challenged by some sort of brain trauma or debilitating cognitive condition.  Those caring for others embroiled in these struggles…and those moving forward in the dedicated memory of others that have gone on.

Remembering that I’m saddled up with folks like these on those “I don’t feel like runnin’ today” days, THAT gets me out the door quicker than anything.  I’m proud to stand with ‘em, I wanna train for ‘em…

And when the gun fires…I’m gonna be one of ‘em.


To find more about the Team McGraw program or to participate in one of our events, visit the program website at

Ice Skates and Runnin’ Shoes

admin | February 3, 2010 in Endurance,Running | Comments (14)

It’s January 2009. I’ve never played ice hockey before, and a good friend in Minnesota has made arrangements to take over a lake with her neighbors for a weekend of frozen fun. Snow skiing is also in her plans, some sledding, ice fishing – just a whole bunch of “we are freezing our butts off” activities that sound like a lot of fun.

The snow skiing I’ve got covered; been skiing since I was a kid. Everything else? It’s all new. I’m a little wary of the whole “frozen lake” idea, as the ice-skating I’ve done has always been on legitimate skating rinks. I can skate…and I can swim…but I’ve no interest in mixing the two.

I recall a favorite film – “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In the film, George Bailey goes into the icy water after little brother Harry breaks through and nearly drowns. George is the hero…but the rescue costs him his hearing in one ear as a result. “Are we sure the ice will be thick enough?” the piano player in me wonders.

But I’m told the locals are parking their cars in the middle of the lakes outside their ice fishing huts, so I guess it’ll be okay. Sure. I can do this.

Still, I’m already scheduled to be in Arizona that weekend for my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon. Two Phoenix buddies and I have planned to run together representing Team McGraw to raise awareness for the need for increased quality of life brain tumor research through the Tug McGraw Foundation. They are counting on me to be there…and I’m not a good “let ‘em down-er.”

For the record, Phoenix ain’t nowhere close to Minnesota.

I’m gonna have to make a choice; I can’t do it all. It’s too much. I’ll…no, wait…sure I can. It’s not as if I’m slamming myself with travel and activities…

I’m just “cross-training.”

Ice hockey is just like jumping onto a chilly Precor Elliptical Machine that requires a little more balance. NO, it doesn’t “require more balance.” It assists in “training my core.” If my feet take off without me, it’s merely an opportunity for a series of impromptu lunges. When I fall on my butt – “and I will” – it’s one more sit-up.

Skiing builds up my quads and glutes. It challenges my thighs and hip adductors. So I ski first…skate later…as skating will be “lower impact” in advance of the run to come in a few days.

Ice fishing? I don’t know what that is. We’ll call that “recovery.”

So I shoot up to Minnesota, ski, sled, play hockey, try ice fishing…and then jump onto a plane to Arizona in time to slap on my number and saddle up for the start of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.

Following our “thirteen-and-change-mile” jaunt through the dry and the hot that is Phoenix, even in January, it occurs to me that exactly twenty-four hours earlier, I had been bundled up and up to my knees in snow, eighteen-hundred miles away…and it was ONE HUNDRED DEGREES cooler.

Now THAT’S cross-training.