Archive for March, 2010

RACE REPORT: Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon 2009

admin | March 31, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (13)

Yesterday, in our band dressing room, one of the guys was giving me props for being a pretty good “Googler.” Finding stuff quickly, tracking things down. I’m sure there are those that know much more than I do, but I am pretty good.

Still, sometimes you find things you never expect. For example, months after Team McGraw’s participation in the 2009 Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon, I stumbled onto an article on the Great American Country (GAC) website entitled “Team Rio, Team McGraw Have Run of Nashville.”

(Left) Marty Roe, lead singer for Diamond Rio, and I caught up at the Country Thunder USA festival this past summer in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.

It is a great article, noting the charity elements of both of our programs.  The Team McGraw program was noted for its work supporting the Tug McGraw Foundation and brain tumor research; the award-winning Diamond Rio, both a great band and longtime friend of mine, was acknowledged for support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.

Then…it happened.  The GAC story posted our times.  Guitarist Jimmy Olander of Diamond Rio ran 2:10; lead singer Marty Roe ran 2:20.  Mark McGraw, Tim McGraw’s brother, did 2 hours.  Suzanne Alexander, another friend of mine and an outstanding host for GAC, ran 2:24.

And there it was, in black and white: “Keyboard player Jeff McMahon, of Tim’s band the Dancehall Doctors, finished in 3 hours, 36 minutes.”

Jeff McMahon, feelin’ good and lookin’ strong at the Country Music Half Marathon 2009.

It’s not that I’m competitive  – not so much against others, anyway – just myself. When I’m running for a time, I’ll try to pick folks off one by one in an effort to better my performance.  But that’s in those races where I’m running as a runner.  This wasn’t one of those times.

This time I was running…as a coach. It’s often the cooler gig: locked and loaded with a camera, cell phone, and extra sport beans, getting our folks to the finish line…and sending ‘em home with some runner bling!

Honestly, I don’t remember much about MY race.  I can tell you about our runners, the obstacles they overcame, and the inspiration they exemplified.  Team McGraw was in full force, and there was much to celebrate and share among our “Ya Gotta Believe-ers!”

The brightest spot on my radar was Jennifer Brusstar, president and CEO of the Tug McGraw Foundation.  Jen had been ramping up her first half marathon adventure for over a year; I could not wait to see her step up to the challenge…and she sure did.

Dean Brown, longtime fiddler for Tim McGraw's band, the Dancehall Doctors.

My bandmate, fiddler for the Dancehall Doctors Dean Brown, was also out on the course.  He and I train together a lot, and I knew that he was good to go.

In total we had 39 runners, most of them half marathoners, with only a few taking on the full marathon.  I kept up with my folks as best I could, picking up information from volunteers along the course.

(Have you seen Fred?  How did he look?  Good?  Excellent!  What about Wilma?  Really?  How far up?  All right…I’ll go find her.)

Some sent me updates via cell phone.  I tracked down folks having trouble, talked them through their cramps or pains or anxieties, and then ran on.  Stopped to walk with an overly ambitious PR seeker that got hit in the face with “too much, too soon.”

One particular runner had almost decided that, despite the notable heat that day, she wasn’t drinking any more water; her stomach was distended, she thought, and she had drunk too much over the first five miles. No water for the next nine?  In THIS heat?  That doesn’t sound right.

The Country Music Marathon 2009 was a hot one!

After talking through this with her, I discovered she had hammered too hard on the provided sports drinks…not had any water at all…and the acid in the drinks was doing a number on her.  She didn’t need to avoid water…but aim for it.

Whew.  Glad we caught that one early.  A glass or two of water and she was on her way to a strong finish!

Jennifer Brusstar, president and CEO of the Tug McGraw Foundation.

One particular part of the course doubles back on itself – a hairpin that finds you greeting fellow runners on their way into the course on your way out.  As it happened, there was my colleague and TMF president Jennifer Brusstar, looking strong and headed into the fray.

So, of course, I turned tail and headed back in order to run that part of the course again…with her.

There were others working support during the race, most notably our own Coach Kevin Leathers.  Keeping folks out of the ditches, cheering them on, passing out Vaseline or nutrition gels or Band-Aids or other “this is what you” needs of the moment.

(From left) Edi Rose, Mark McGraw, Shilpa Anturkar, and Pablo Nyarady enjoy the spoils of a race well run; YA GOTTA BELIEVE!

Team McGraw rocked…and I was much more thrilled to see so many inspired performances.  Accomplishments that seemed out of reach back at Mile 10…were affirmed with a medal at the finish line.

My favorite part of the day?  Back slaps and photographs, smiles of achievement, and a little warm and fuzzy knowing that I might have helped a little.

After checking my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch, my half marathon (13.1 miles) was 16.21 miles long.  My time was 1 hour and 26 minutes slower than my personal best, set two months earlier at the 2009 Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon.  Perhaps I had let my training slip a bit since February…but come on…give a brother a break.

For the record…I recently ran a 2:03 half marathon at the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon.  That’s an improvement of 1 hour and 33 minutes for the half marathon since the Country Music Half Marathon 2009.  If I can shave off that much again by Dallas of next year…HOLY SMOKES…

I should run next year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon in 30 MINUTES… shattering the world record set by Zersenay Tadese just last week in Lisbon!


Marathon Training on Tour: Relentless Flexibility

admin | March 27, 2010 in Endurance,Running | Comments (3)

My last full marathon was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon on November 15, 2009.  I will be out on the road with the Tim McGraw “Southern Voice” concert tour until the middle of October 2010.

So when it comes to running my next marathon, this is what I hear most often: “I guess you won’t be able to do a marathon this year, huh?  Too busy with the concert tour, I guess.”

Well, no.  In fact, when I did my first two, the 1995 Dallas White Rock Marathon and the 1996 Marine Corps Marathon, we were doing roughly 250-300 dates a year.

Currently, I’m training to run the ING New York City Marathon with Team McGraw in 2010.  I’m planning to improve my time significantly…and yes, almost all of my training will happen as I bounce from city to city, hotel to hotel, show to show.

This keeps my training regimen in constant flux, which confuses some coaches and running gurus.  They get locked into that “same time every day,” “run this route,” and “schedule your run as your most important appointment” regimen in order to make sure their runners remain consistent.

I understand that…but it just isn’t going to work out here on the road.  Our days are long, full, and they turn on a dime.  Set a schedule?  Really? That’s asking me to fail…and that’s not part of my training plan.

Here’s sort of how it works out here:

YESTERDAY: We arrived in City #1 around 11AM.  Tossed down a Clif Bar and a bottle of water from my backpack.  We stayed in a hotel downtown, surrounded by cabbies and public transportation.  Construction was underway in front of our hotel, and traffic was hell.  There was a park three blocks over – about a half-mile around.  We had rehearsal two hours later.

I knocked out six laps, three miles, around noon and called it good.

TODAY: We got into City #2 in time for a great breakfast.  No rehearsal this afternoon, but the hotel is adjacent to the interstate.  I can run on the service road for a while, but there’s no shoulder.  Everyone else in the hotel is seemingly asleep, so no one is on the one treadmill in the fitness room.

I gut out four on the treadmill around 2PM – (as this is all I can bear) – and move on with my day.

TOMORROW:  We don’t have a show, but we won’t arrive in City #3 until well after lunch.  We are set to stay near a park system that has converted miles and miles of old train tracks into a running trail.  The course runs along the river for almost thirteen miles.  No traffic, no dogs, no nothin’.

I’ll grab a long one, eleven miles on the trails around 4PM in the afternoon.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: I don’t know.  Where am I gonna be again?

The consistency lies in the flexibility.  I can’t get my skirt blown up by a bump in the road.  Bend your knees, adjust for the change, and proceed.  No, I don’t always know where we are.  No, I can’t always make a plan.  No, I don’t often know where I’m gonna run when I jump off the bus.

But I’m out there.


admin | March 22, 2010 in Hunting,Music,Running | Comments (2)

When Jim Ferguson of Great American Outdoor Trails Radio Magazine first reached out to me about his radio show, I was a bit uncertain as to why he wanted to talk to me.

Jim and Trav (Jim’s cohost) talk hunting. Fishing. The coolest gear and the latest wildlife happenings. Pretty much all the “nitty gritty” of the great outdoors. They know a lot; I know a little…and I knew I’d never keep up.

Jim assured me that I wasn’t expected to. He knew that I’d been on a few recent hunting and fishing trips in between concert dates with Tim McGraw and Team McGraw endurance events…and he wanted to know about them.

He wanted the skinny on my Canadian goose hunting expedition on the way to New York City to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman to perform with McGraw. The lowdown on the Tug McGraw Foundation and running a marathon. The inside scoop on our current “Southern Voice” concert tour.

The real story on who taught me to shoot…and the spirit behind some outstanding new adventures in the middle of my musical “life on the road.”

Well…sure…that I can handle…and there is some fun to share in there. So I sat down with Jim and Trav last week for an interview that is currently available on the Great American Outdoor Trails Radio Magazine website. Great dudes, fans of our music, great supporters of Team McGraw.

This was a blast; I think the full interview will be posted for the week ending this Thursday, March 25, 2010…so swing by and give ‘er a listen! Just go to their homepage and select “CLICK HERE TO LISTEN” for the most current broadcast.

(For those that did not catch this interview during the week of its availability on GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOOR TRAILS website, ROAD DOG RUNNER will soon post my portion of this interview soon…so stay tuned!)

Runners Freeze Their Shamrocks Off

admin | March 17, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (5)

Tug McGraw was always, always, ready for St. Patrick’s Day.  The famed pitcher for both the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies loved to play.  He loved to laugh.  He loved his Irish heritage, and any reason to celebrate is, well…a good reason to celebrate!

That’s when Team McGraw first got underway.  St. Patrick’s Day.

Specifically, it was March 12, 2005.  The First Annual Shamrock Spring 5K was to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in conjunction with their annual parade, and the event organizers had decided to dedicate the money raised from their run to the Tug McGraw Foundation in support of quality of life brain tumor research.

Jennifer Brusstar, president of the Tug McGraw Foundation, knew I was a runner and suggested I head to Milwaukee and run in Tug’s memory.  I figured we could dig a little deeper than just me, so I scampered onto our tour bus and hit up my bandmates for runnin’ buddies to share the fun.

My friend and bandmate Dean Brown (left) and I stretch it out a bit halfway through the race.

Denny Hemingson and Dean Brown, our steel player and fiddler respectively, were running regularly and instantly good to go.  Billy Mason, our drummer, wasn’t running so much, but he wasn’t about to let a chance to honor Tug slip away; he was in as well.

Our plans were almost derailed before we ever got started.  We were supposed to be off that weekend, but at the last minute, we were called to perform in Washington, DC with Tim McGraw the night before the run in Wisconsin.

One of the magical wizards from the parade; for the record, I'm on the left, wizard on the right.

The event was a charity fundraiser for the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.  This made things trickier.  We did not finish our show in Washington, DC until late.  After the show, we were part of the “mix and mingle” with all the supporters and contributors.  It was a great cause…but a long night.

It was a tough schedule, but my buds stepped up, and after only two hours of sleep and a crack-o’-dawn flight on race morning, we were laced up in Milwaukee and decked out in our custom-made green Tug McGraw “45” baseball jerseys.

(From left) DANCEHALL DOCTORS: Drummer Billy Mason, steel guitarist Denny Hemingson, me and fiddler Dean Brown.

For the first time, ”Team McGraw” was headed to the starting line.

Together our foursome shivered through sixteen-degree weather as friends and fans, elfin and otherwise, lined the sidewalks to cheer on all the runners over the 3.1-mile course.  Donations to sponsor Team McGraw raised over $45,000 for the Tug McGraw Foundation.

“45” was Tug’s number.  We raised over $45,000.  Cool.

After the race, the cold penetrated deeper as my pals and I boarded a float and rode through downtown as part of the parade celebration.  Wizards wandered the alleyways and the music of buoyant bagpipers filled the air.  Despite the chilly weather, it was a fun way to ring in the holiday.

Tug would have dug it…though I doubt he would have chosen to join us on the run.  He’d be back at the pub, ready to welcome our return from the cold with a warm drink and a slap on the back.  He’d be reveling in the joy of his Irish-ness, probably singing at the top of his lungs, and I have no doubt he would have had something funny and inappropriate to say about how we all had surely frozen our shamrocks off during the run that morning.

No sweat, Tugger.  Anything for you, pal.

Rock and Roll Never Forgets

admin | March 12, 2010 in Music,Running | Comments (6)

In 1976, I turned twelve. I was running with my dad on a regular basis, makin’ loops around the neighborhood in our small town for two or three-mile runs. We were loggin’ some miles, stretching our legs toward what would be my first real distance event – the eight-mile Dallas Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.

I was also stretching out on the piano, getting away from just classical sheet music and picking more songs out by ear. I would make cassette tapes from records on my stereo upstairs, slap them into my dad’s portable cassette player, and carry them down to the living room where the piano lived…and go to work.

Bob Seger’s Night Moves album came out around then. The title cut was the biggest hit off that record. “Mainstreet” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” also made it to the radio. My favorite tune from that record was “Fire Down Below,” rockin’ and aggressive and awesome for a twelve-year-old kid to bang out again and again and again.

Bob Seger’s career took off with that album…and I followed it. More big records and more hit songs. I grew as a musician, nourished by many of those songs. “Sunspot Baby.” “Turn the Page.”

And like every other card-carrying bar band warrior, I have played Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” eleventy-seven thousand times in clubs across the country for many years since.

Then, in 1976, I was running three-mile loops with my dad and picking out Bob Seger’s first hits on the piano.

Now, in 2010, I’m back in Dallas visiting my folks. On Sunday, my dad will be cheering me on at the Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon…and just a few weeks ago, Bob Seger was in the audience of our “Southern Voice” tour in Madison, Wisconsin as we performed some of the hit records I’ve played on with Tim McGraw…after first honing my craft…from learning his.

Thank you, sir.

Rock on.

RACE REPORT: Gasparilla Distance Classic 2009

admin | March 8, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (9)

Last weekend was the Gasparilla Distance Classic, the celebrated half marathon held in Tampa, Florida.  I wanted to be there – I ran it last year with Tom Karpowich, one of our dedicated Team McGraw crew – but we had a concert the night before in another state, and I just couldn’t get there.  Dang it.

Tom had stumbled onto Team McGraw at the 2008 Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee.  We hadn’t met, but he had seen our shirts.  Our signs.  Our supporters.  He knew we were out there, and he knew our mission – to support quality of life brain tumor research through the Tug McGraw Foundation.

[NOTE: As with many of our Team McGraw runners, Tom’s appreciation for our mission stemmed from his own journey; his wife, Mary, was in her own battle with a brain tumor, and his running was to be a part of his fighting on her behalf.   She lost her battle this past January 2010…but her memory lives on as Tom continues to honor her through his support of the Tug McGraw Foundation as a dedicated member of Team McGraw.]

(Left) Tom Karpowich and me at the starting line of the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon on February 28, 2009.

He tracked us down after that race and signed up to join our team for the ING New York City Marathon 2008.  As it happened, I was rolling through Tampa, where he lives, only days after he contacted us about the New York race…so he stopped by our hotel and grabbed a quick run with my bandmate Deano and I the morning of our show.

Long story short, he joined Team McGraw for the New York City Marathon in 2008…we remained friends afterward…and when the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon came around on February 28, 2009, he thought I needed to fly into Florida to run shotgun with him at the race.

Well, I didn’t have a concert that weekend.  I was anxious to run another race, especially after a surprisingly strong finish at the Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon two weeks earlier.  Okay…surprisingly strong for me…and for me, that works. Besides, Tom figured, of the folks he knew, I’d be the one to say, “Jump on a plane and shoot over to Florida this weekend to grab a run?  SURE!”

I guess he was right; sure, I’ll run shotgun.  I’m that kinda runner.

I blew in the day before.  He met me at the airport, we shot through the expo, and I embraced my inner pirate as the Gasparilla festivities heralded the legendary buccaneer Jose Gaspar, famous for terrorizing the coast during the late 18th and early 19th century.  Gathered my number, snagged some photos, and picked up a bright red headband complete with skull and crossbones; I WAS READY!

We got to the race early the next morning.  I always get there early.  Keeps the jitters down to know we are parked, I’ve found the start, and if anyone is stuck in the wrong place waiting on a shuttle, it ain’t me.

We line up in the dark, both of us ready to rock the course in our red Team McGraw jerseys.  Someone wandering through all the runners insisted they take our picture.  They were shooting for the race.  Lesson learned: even two people, when they are both wearing their team jerseys, are a team worth noting.

I locked that little nugget away for future flag-waving.

The race got off with little event.  My watch was charged and prepared for scrutiny.  My plan was simple; I was going to try to duplicate the 2:10 I ran in Sarasota to determine if it was an accurate measuring stick for my fitness level or a fluke.  Tom was in…and we were off.

The first half was smooth – not much really worth remembering.  The main effort was to keep my pace consistent.  The start was very much in the dark; I was sorry to find that when I finally found my way to the fire juggler along the sidelines, the sun had come out and sapped some of the “cool” out of his act…but I still appreciated the show.

The weather was calm enough, kinda cloudy, cool, but not cold.  But again…that was the FIRST half.

Clouds started moving in and the wind started picking up around the halfway mark.  Then it started to rain.  Ugh.  The “much more of a gale than a breeze” stood me straight up.  I wanted to relish the run along the water – but I had my head ducked and just wasn’t paying much attention.

I was still trying to hang onto my plan…but it was slipping away.

Near the end, the wind had let up, and I was able to stretch back out and finish strong.  I had lost some time in the back half of the run, but it didn’t seem like too much, all things considered.  I still felt okay, and the 2:10 from two weeks earlier was still the only measuring stick I had.

I finished the race with a 2:15: 39.  Not bad.  I thought I had warmed up as the rain stopped…but when I was offered up a reflective space blanket after receiving my medal at the finish, I wrapped myself up in it tightly to fight back the wind that remained.  The cold wasn’t ready to abate quite yet.

And then the rain…resumed.  P-p-p-perfect.

Touring and the Treadmill

admin | March 6, 2010 in Music,Running | Comments (7)

Following a terrific Texas warm-up run by the Alamo, it was off to Omaha, Nebraska.  We would spend one day just getting there; then we’d have three days to hammer out details before launching the 2010 Tim McGraw “Southern Voice” tour on February 11, 2010.

It’s a big job.  The band’s got the tunes down already, but there’s staging and lighting and video to build into the show. Everything’s gotta be right…so we have a lot of rehearsal to do.  We’ll hit it in the morning, knock out various details in the afternoon, and do it again at night.  Go to sleep and do it again.

There’s no time to waste, and everyone needs to be on point.

And I’ve still got running to do.  I can’t just NOT do it – not with another marathon out there on the horizon.  Omaha’s got snow everywhere, (not like the “heavy” snow I ran through in Tennessee), and I can’t twist an ankle or get lost during a run and show up late after running an extra three miles I wasn’t planning on.

So, for these first few days…(gulp)…I suck it up and hit the treadmill in the hotel for two, three, or four miles before scurrying back up to my room and getting a shower.  I don’t have a hard plan, no set interval workout or anything, but I know to get the most of this, I’ve gotta push harder…so I run clearly negative, increase my pace throughout…and by the end, I’m running faster, stretching further, and hitting my best clip of the session.

I hate it, but I do it, and I feel better having done it.  The legs are looser, the head’s clearer, and I haven’t let my training completely fall through the cracks before the tour is even underway.

The phone rings.  Oh, crap.  They’re lookin’ for me onstage.

Time to run the show again.

National Grammar Day 2010

admin | March 4, 2010 in WordSmatter | Comments (7)

(“Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!” ~ As posted March 4, 2010 on


In recognition of National Grammar Day, I thought I would share the first blog I ever posted titled “Fleas and Parrots.” It was originally published in the midst of summer touring on August 1, 2005, and as I read what I wrote at the time, I realize that for all the unplanned corners and unfortunate dead ends along the road since then…I could have written it this morning.

So here it is…as it was.  See you on the road.


I travel for a living. Not all the time…not year-round. But when I’m at work, I’m gone. Real gone. Can’t have a dog gone. Hold my mail gone.

Dead plants gone.

Now I think I do pretty well keeping in touch with the folks back home. Maybe I’m wrong. “We never know how to get a hold of you.” I’ve had the same mailing address for years. “We never know where you are.” Have cell phone, will travel. Have laptop, will write.

I do, too. I’ll often stay up well into the morning hours answering email or knocking out road stories. I’ve written articles, letters, journal entries. I enjoy the exercise. Much of the time, that’s what it is for me…exercise. A nice break from the travel and a chance to stretch my seemingly deteriorating brain for a moment.

I don’t assume that I am especially good at this art of writing. I have friends that are great at it. I’ve read great writers. Still, sometimes it is fun to share a story and some of those stories just have to be written down. So I try to do it well. I’ll spend more time than necessary searching for proper spellings, correct punctuation, and the perfect metaphor.

For example, a misplaced comma can severely change your dinner plans. “Have you already eaten, gentlemen?” This shows a great deal of courtesy, a rarity in this less-than-chivalrous time of ours. “Have you already eaten gentlemen?” The second shows a bit less courtesy and somewhat negates the assumption of a vegetarian menu.

Words matter. The flower shop back at home has been selling “carantions” for over a year now. Come on, people…at least use Spell-check. I love the story of the teacher that used the word “metriculous” with me as she defended “creative spelling.” Perhaps I’ll tell that story later.

Things can slip by; those programs ain’t perfect. Sure enough, I’ll count on a computer program to correct my hasty mistakes only to find out that I’ve ordered a medley of “fleas and parrots” as my vegetable of the day.

I’ll try my hand at this. I think it’ll be fun. Another way to keep in touch and a place to stash my literary meanders. Not really sure what all will find its way into this world that is blogging. It seems like I have a lot of options.

And so it begins.

(“Fleas and Parrots” was originally published August 1, 2005.)

Alamo Run

admin | March 1, 2010 in Running | Comments (7)

We were in Texas to perform for the San Antonio Rodeo.  I grew up in Texas…consider myself first a “Texas boy.”  So this was all good by me.

The Tim McGraw “Southern Voice” tour would “officially” start the next week, so San Antone would be kind of a warm-up.  A way to work out a few bugs, get our feet wet.  Try a few new things out before the BIG launch with all the lights and cameras and bells and whistles and screens and staging and stuff.

Our first gig of 2010…so this would also be my first “on the road” run of the year. Sure, I could map out a plan…but I’m not always that patient.  I usually just throw on my shoes, grab my watch and hotel key, and head out with no idea where I’m headed.

Sometimes the runs suck.  Downtown traffic, construction, no sidewalks, dead ends, and oncoming traffic.

Sometimes they don’t suck.  A park appears around the corner.  A bike trail.  Fun murals, scenic views, all stumbled upon with a little luck.

That day, though, I DID have a plan…and stopped by the concierge desk.  “Take a left at the corner…and just keep going,” he told me.  “You can’t miss it.”  I wasn’t going to.

In 1836, roughly 250 Texian soldiers and Tejano volunteers under siege at the Alamo mission heroically fought to their death against tremendous odds to preserve Texas’ independence.  Attacked by the Mexican army under the leadership of General Santa Anna, estimates put Mexican casualties and wounded at roughly 600.

The Alamo…this remarkable  symbol of ultimate sacrifice…was right down the street from our hotel.

It was a quick three-mile out and back, as time was tight that day.  The band had a doubleheader, and our first show was early in the afternoon…but carving out the time to run by and take in a little bit of that history…reflect on the strength and perseverance of those men…made for a great first run of a new tour season.

I’ll run a marathon…but THOSE guys knew what it meant to truly endure.

Remember the Alamo.